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by Jeff Sakata

In the early stages of human reasoning, communication mainly consisted of stories shared around a campfire. The discovery of paint allowed these early people to record their history through pictures and other symbols. Since paper didn't exist during this early time period, people were forced to paint on walls in caves. Over time, painting has become an important form of art, but the wall isn't the preferred choice of canvas. However, we still find works of art, commonly referred to as graffiti, painted on walls and also on the sides of buses, trains, and buildings. Although I consider most forms of graffiti to be art, I feel that it is vandalism because of the destruction of public and private property it causes.

Most forms of graffiti are considered to be art because, like other forms of art, it takes years of practice and dedication to develop and master. Graffiti basically comes in two different forms: art and trash. Graffiti art consists of elaborate colors, styles, and usually sends a message by the artist or artists. Trash consists of meaningless tags, a person's name or alias, mainly used as a method of marking their territory. Graffiti artists take years of perfecting what is commonly known as "can control," methods of making the paint do what they wish it to do. Taggers do not produce art because all they paint are their name's in short, scribbled letters across a wall or over graffiti artists work . In other words, what taggers do is no different than what a small, five-year-old child does when he gets in trouble by his parents for writing on the walls of the house with a crayon.

Graffiti is finally getting the recognition by respectable authorities in the field of art, reinforcing the idea that graffiti Is art. In recent years, we have seen movies, like Armageddon for example, which featured graffiti art scrolled on walls and buses. Museums have also started to feature graffiti murals as a form of art. By displaying graffiti artists' work, museums have been able to attract a younger and more diverse audience. "The benefits of canvas and sanctioned walls are that the artist can take time to explore their intent, purpose, and motivations of their artwork (Bojorquez, C.). There are also web sites on the Internet which promote graffiti by displaying pictures taken from various neighborhood communities. The Internet, the information super highway, is also viewed by anyone by millions of people everyday, so graffiti can be seen by  anybody with a computer, not just by people driving through a particular neighborhood.

No matter how magnificent a graffiti artist's work is, it is still vandalism if it's done without consent of the property owner. Property owners do not have too many options when dealing with graffiti vandals. Graffiti artists claim that businesses will continue to operate if there is graffiti on the walls. The thing that they do not understand is that keeping the walls of the shop clean and free of graffiti provides customers with a more friendly and safe shopping enviornment. If you were a customer and had the choice of going into a shop with graffiti on the walls or going to a shop across the street with walls clean of graffiti, which would you choose to shop at? Understanding that some graffiti is art, property owners can contract a graffiti artist to work their magic on the walls of their shop in hopes of attracting business. This way, everything would be legal and everyone would be content. Graffiti artists would be able to create and property owners would feel satisfied with the small investment they made, rather than paying thousands and thousands of dollars trying to paint over graffiti they didn't want there in the first place. But how do we stop this vandalism? I do not believe there is an answer. "We have laws because of the people we cannot reach" (Doug). So this means that no matter how hard authorities try to crack down on graffiti, it will never stop.

Art is a very important form of personal expression,but when is drawn on public or private property, it also becomes a form of vandalism. Graffiti, an art form created by the hip-hop culture, 'has lived from non-sense scribbles to elaborate murals and pictures. However, until these art works are painted on actual canvas or paper and not on walls of buildings or on the sides of trains, the graffiti will continue to get the bad reputation is so typically receives today.

Works Cited

Bojorquez, Chaz. "Any Drawn Line That Speaks About Identity, Dignity, and Unity Is Art."

Doug. "That Tired Old Graffiti Advocate Strategy." An Anti-Graffiti Web Page.


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SFSU Students' Essays reproduced with permission of the Student(s).
All 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