Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Tagged and Bagged

It's an awfully complicated issue for me, graffiti art (not the kind that hangs in galleries, the kind that's painted without permission on walls and such). If I had to be absolute about it, which I hate to be about anything, I'd say the artists are wrong. They do not have a right to use other people's property as their canvases (but note, I don't feel people [including landlords] should have a right to post billboards all over buildings where people live either, especially over their windows, but that gets a free pass in this city).

Still, I think Mayor Bloomberg got it wrong when he revoked the permit for a block party that included having graffiti artists paint on replicas of subway cars:

The city has revoked a permit awarded to organizers of a block party celebrating graffiti, saying it will not grant another one unless the group scraps plans to have graffiti writers spray paint murals onto models of New York City subway trains. The city acted hours after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg criticized the plans yesterday.

The block party, scheduled for Aug. 24, was to be held on West 22nd Street by the fashion designer Marc Ecko to celebrate the upcoming release of the video game he designed for Atari, "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure." The game features characters who vandalize a city called New Radius with graffiti in defiance of a corrupt and tyrannical local government.

Mr. Ecko was granted the permit on July 18, after months of talks with community leaders in Chelsea.

The city revoked the permit yesterday, the same day City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. was quoted in The Daily News as saying the party was "promoting criminal acts."

The Mayor, who gets a lot of mileage in this city out of his support of the arts, insists this is not about curbing freedom of expression:

"Look, there is a fine line here between freedom of expression and going out and encouraging people to hurt this city," Mr. Bloomberg said during a visit to a senior citizens center in Queens yesterday. "Defacing subway cars is hardly a joke; encouraging people, kids in particular, to do that after all the money we've spent, all the time we've spent removing graffiti."

But here's the thing, Bloomberg missed a golden opportunity to take the hip out of graffiti art. The permit had been granted, the context was crystal clear, and it's not as if most folks invited to events like this are going to risk ruining their Prada shoes by climbing a fence in the middle of the night to tag a subway car. All Mikey had to do was show up himself, compliment the artistry of the work in as dry conceptual terms as he could, and the next morning hundreds of kids around the city would have ditched their spray cans out of sheer embarrassment. Instead, he's only further glorified the rebellious aspect of the practice.

P.S. Can't miss this opportunity to plug the amazing Hugo Martinez of Martinez gallery. He's remained on the bleeding edge of the counter culture graffiti art represents and uses his gallery to promote amazing events like this one. A true hero of the city.

UPDATE: As ionart's Mark Barry points out, "It can get out of hand, when everyone has an opinion but little talent to express it. Wooster Collective usually has a collection of the good stuff."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the plus side, unlike pretty much all other forms of vandalism, grafitti is least destructive and actually creative. You can't say that about smashing people's cars' windows, for example - such a favourite pastime in parts of Pittsburgh.

8/17/2005 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yeah, it's certainly not the worst thing vandals can do.

I don't love street graffiti by any measure. From a purely aesthetic point of view, there's rarely anything rewarding about the composition once two or more graffitists begin covering a then becomes a jumbled mess (if it was ever any good, that is).

Having said that, I do appreciate the spirit of civil disobedience, and from Haring to Basquiat there have been some amazing talents start off that way, so...

Like I wrote above, it's a complicated topic for me.

8/17/2005 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

It can get out of hand, when everyone has an opinion but little talent to express it. Wooster Collective usually has a collection of the good stuff.

8/17/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is funny

8/17/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

It may be one of the least destructive forms of vandalism but nonetheless its still vandalism and destructive enough for the property owner who has to powerwash it off or paint it over. Personally I find the fascination with "street art" to be one of the most poser-laden, silly veins of contemporary art. Sure, there are a number of themes that can be explored through spray paint (property rights, freedom of speech, blah, blah blah), but mostly - and especially in the case of Ecko's party - its just a way for the usual elite to buy themselves a bit of street cred and then sell their adoring fans more crap - video games and clothes in this instance.

8/19/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Personally I find the fascination with "street art" to be one of the most poser-laden, silly veins of contemporary art.

I'm not that far from that same stance, Todd. But sometimes I suspect that's because I'm heavily invested in "the canon," so to speak.

There's an artist in my gallery's neighborhood who I've had a long-standing dialog with. His work is much more "street" than it is "establishment, and I've had rather heartbreaking conversations with him about why my gallery's not a good match for his work.

He's as dedicated to what he does as any artist I know, and so I have a great deal of respect for him because of that.

My point being, that aesthetics are only one part of why someone can be fascinated with an artist. It's not always a matter of posing.

8/19/2005 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger german said...

QUALITY I really like this blog, now im not 1 for adding links in my replies but I feel this is a great exception, I read a blog like this on by a graffiti artist called Banksy & another great bunch of graffiti artists called the Graffiti Kings.

12/20/2009 03:11:00 PM  

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