Sometimes I forget that art and design is applied to everything we look at and use. I found this article about 5Pointz Arts Center, an old warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, New York, that is absolutely covered in graffiti, a form of art I sometimes pass by without appreciating. The article said the building “has been a legal mecca and exhibition space for graffiti artists for more than a decade,” however, the building’s owner is now considering tearing it down and replacing it with residential space. The significance of this is that one of the few legal spaces for graffiti artists, and one that is a piece of art itself and known worldwide, could disappear.
Graffiti’s modern origins began in New York City, although graffiti has been around ancient times. And because graffiti was revived in the U.S., it seems to have its influence in the graffiti art coming from other countries, although those countries still keep their own style. I thought this was interesting, it’s a quote coming from an article from a South Korean magazine about the graffiti there versus here, “In America, graffiti is more about culture; bombing, illegal work, and that gets you respect. Korea is different, it is only about the image created and not the culture.” I feel like it’s the personality of a community reflected in art, and literally imprinted on the community. The article also mentioned that the artists don’t have to deal with much law enforcement, which I thought was an interesting difference between their graffiti culture and ours.
Also influenced by New York but with a style of its own is Japan. Thinking about it, Japan does seem like it would have a big graffiti scene since it’s so known for anime. This article even mentions anime as one of its influences, “For anyone that has visited Tokyo, it’s no secret that Japanese graffiti artists, while of course influenced by the New York scene, have created a beast all of their own with the popular influences of calligraphy, kanji, and anime and magna characters.”
I can see how it’s a fine line when it comes to deciding the legality of graffiti. On the one hand, graffiti is an art form that, when done tastefully, portrays culture, personality and character. On the other, it’s vandalism and offensive when it includes profanity or promotes violent gang culture. This BBC article talks a little about a lawsuit against New York anti-graffiti laws. The lawsuit argues that graffiti is a form of free speech, which I agree with, but it goes back to that fine line argument.
The article also mentions Berlin. Berlin happens to be a huge hub for European graffiti, which is legal there. From a blog post written by an American living in Berlin, I read, “Berlin graffiti is a living organism. It recreates itself, it breeds, seemingly spontaneously mutates, yet always with recognizable influence. The art infests certain areas, leaves some untouched, has prefered feeding areas, zones were the hunting is dangerous, but where the benefit for success great.” I think that speaks for the graffiti scene worldwide, which until now, I knew nothing about. I hope it can continue to have places to be displayed unpunished, because it really is an organism occupying the city and reflecting the lives of its artists.