Graffiti Verite' Banner Logo, (c) BRYAN WORLD PRODUCTIONS

 by Duane Johnson

Graffiti is a part of the city of San Francisco. Everywhere you go you can see the effects graffiti has on this city. In fact graffiti is a part of every city you come across in this country. Graffiti has hit the streets worldwide. They are usually seen on walls, in buses, trucks, and much more by the means of a spray can. Some people define the term graffiti as pieces of drawings or artwork on walls or murals, while others define it as vandalism. Whether you consider it as a form of art or as vandalism it's up to you. I on the other hand believe that there are two sides to this graffiti art. I think that those artists who use graffiti to portray their emotion or give a story, are considered as artists. They tell us what goes on in their lives, as we could not see. On the other hand, those who tag on walls with their names or gang signs are ruthless individuals that are just plain vandals. These are the people who have no respect for other people's property. They disrupt our lives with unnecessary markings that we spend our personal money and time to clean up. Graffiti can have both a positive and negative connotation to the person who holds the judgment.

         Some say graffiti is vandalism because it destroys other people's property. Graffiti have been found on walls of people's houses, on seats of public transportation, and many other places. They are not always seen as big messes. Even though it may be a line or a scribble of an initial, this will cause the owner to repaint an entire section because they want to keep their business in a good clean condition for their customers. Costly outcomes follow these inconsiderate behaviors to personal and public properties. All this graffiti take time and money out of people's pockets to clean up this mess. A sum of $2 million dollars a year has been spent on cleaning up this graffiti off of buildings and houses. This sum of money consist of buying paint, supplies and crew to clean up about 1.3 million square feet of walls, garage doors, lamp posts and utility, mail and fire boxes on public and private property (Epstein).  Time and energy is consumed by cleaning up their property instead of other more important things. Much of the money spent to help clean our city could have gone into the school system. Not only does the graffiti cost taxpayers money to help finance these projects they also deteriorate property value to houses. The value of a house depends on the condition of the house and more importantly the environment where the house resides. If the house is located where there is a lot of graffiti vandalism, the value of the house may be lowered than normal.

         Another type of graffiti is called tagging. Tagging is not done with colors or with precision. Tagging is done anywhere and wherever you can. The difference between tagging and graffiti is that tagging is done without thought or care. Most tags are seen as simple lettering or initials of a person or gang. They are usually done with a thick black magic marker. Even though tagging falls under the same name as graffiti, tagger's have a totally different concept.  Taggers are like graffiti artists, they want to be recognized but not by the community. Taggers tag to be recognized by fellow and rival gang members. (Phillips)   Taggers are sometimes related to a gang or a crew. These  crew members use graffiti to distinguish territory and fellow members of their group. Taggers are what keep people unclear about the concept  of graffiti.

         Consent is a major issue to those who participate with graffiti. Young graffiti artists can and should obtain consent from business owners to paint on their walls. This can be a start off point for a profession that is not widely known. As graffiti artists usually show a piece in order to get their name on the streets, this will be a good opportunity for them to have a place to work on freely. This way they will not be breaking the law or be worried about being arrested for vandalism. This will also be good for the business because it will show that they care about the community and acknowledge the talents and a new style of art by our youth. As many graffiti art is full of color and shapes they will bring an array of beauty to a place that may seem dull. Many graffiti artists who obtain consent can make some cash out of it and furthermore dive into a new profession. Others who do not obtain consent will find themselves either behind bars or fitted with a fine.

         Graffiti artists try to portray their emotion on the canvas. Just as musicians, who put their feelings into their music, artists put it into their drawings. Each drawing gives a sense of what the artists may have gone through. Through the walls we can then understand what they have seen in their lives. Some artists even leave messages along with their graffiti art. Sometimes the message is about life and sometimes the message is about death. We all express our emotion in different ways and so do graffiti artists. Not only do these artists give emotions, they also give ideas to new and upcoming graffiti artists. They are there for new graffiti artist to learn of the past styles and maybe transform it into their own unique style of graffiti. Shapes and color of one individual's drawing may be different from another. When one puts them together they can form a new style.

         Although graffiti art is not seen in museums today, this art will be talked about for centuries to come. Those who believe in a new transformation in style of art will be the only ones that admire these colorful pieces of art forms. It will take some time for people to understand what comes behind graffiti. Though these are not just drawings from adolescents who want to vandalize the neighborhood, they are a work of art that tells a tale of their life. Just as the ancient Egyptian's hieroglyphics are preserved for our enjoyment now, graffiti will forever be on walls to be discovered in the future. Graffiti will tell a part of the history of our world that the museums will not show. Each time-frame in history has its own unique style of art. Graffiti will be the art of the future that people will begin to admire.

         The term graffiti can only be defended by the meaning one gives it. Since there are so many types of graffiti, one can not judge it to be good or bad. Graffiti can be seen as vandalism because it is done without consent on other people's property. Although with gaining proper consent, graffiti artists can showcase their talents to the world. While showcasing their talents, they are also contributing to teaching new and upcoming graffiti artists with their styles. Graffiti artists place their emotions and inner feeling to their artwork. On the other hand,  taggers use graffiti as a sign of recognition and show of power.  Taggers and graffiti artists are at two different levels because they have different expectations about their work. All graffiti can not be considered as Vandalism because they are not all seen the same way. One must first decide what the artists has to say in their drawing on the walls before they depict it as vandalism or art.

Works Cited

Epstein, Edward. "San Francisco Takes on Urban Scrawl." San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 1999. ~A17, A22

Phillips, Susan A. Graffiti Definition: The Dictionary of art. London: Macmillan (In Press), 1996


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SFSU Student Essays reproduced with permission of the Student(s).
All SFSU Student(s) Essays were submitted by Professor L. Barroca, San Francisco State University.
Copyright, 1999, All Rights Reserved
Graffiti Verite' / GV2, International Graffiti Art Competition