Graffiti: Art Or Vandalism? Essay

1476 words - 6 pages

Art: the ultimate form of self expression. But, what constitutes an art? And, who decides? These very questions plague society as it tries to decide and define the official status of graffiti--art or vandalism? Because it has found its way into art galleries and because of the community of artists who challenge and inspire each other, graffiti should be considered art and as a way to express oneself.
The origin and history of graffiti is not what one might expect. Believed to have been created by a Philadelphia high school student named Cornbread in 1967, it was a bold effort to catch the attention of a girl (De Melker). In this same time period, graffiti sprung up in New York as well. It was “one among many forms of social protest” during the 1960s, “an era marked by social unrest” (Prahlad). Graffiti artists, often known as “writers”, used graffiti as a form of protest, most clearly exemplified in the “‘bombing’ (painting) of subway trains in direct response to the bombing of Cambodia and Vietnam” (Prahlad). The graffiti movement reached its peak in the 1970s, also known as graffiti’s “golden age” (Ehrlich). “The modern graffiti movement, associated with the hip-hop culture of break dancing and rap music, started primarily among black and Latino teenagers in Philadelphia and New York in the late 1960s” (Derfner 30). The tagging phenomenon spread far and fast because these artists “usually wrote on subway cars, which had the advantage of moving their writing across the city” (Derfner 30). This dispersion increased the popularity of graffiti, and the movement spread from city to city, painting the nation.
The influx of graffiti in urban cities raised some concerns with citizens. City officials were the main adversaries. So much so that “New York established an anti-graffiti task force and an undercover graffiti police unit and spent many millions of dollars on experimental solvents” (Derfner 30). Many cities view graffiti as dirty and worthless; for example, the city of San Antonio has arranged an anti-graffiti campaign in which the city boldly states “graffiti is ugly” (“Graffiti”). This attitude towards graffiti and the obsession with ridding cities of graffiti sparked the ever-present negative outlook on the craft, spoiling its artistic value.
This negative shadow on the art form of graffiti has caused the decline of the graffiti movement. As many have predicted, “graffiti may eventually disappear” (“The Writing's on the Wall; Graffiti”). Graffiti has already begun to dwindle from what was once a flourishing art movement, to an almost disesteemed hobby. However, a soiled reputation is not the only culprit in the murder of authentic graffiti. The occupation of the current generation with technology and social media has caused many artists to focus solely on selling their work and gaining attention through social networking platforms. Another, perhaps more common, reason for the decline is the improvement of police work and punishments for...

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