Graffiti - The Public Art Movement

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GRAFFITI - The Public Art Movement The widespread dissemination of colorful graffiti paintings on the walls of our major cities has made it impossible to ignore this form of "public art." As contact with this form of expression increases, one starts to recognize styles, recurrent themes, patterns and stylistic influences. To the masses graffiti seems to represent "vandalism," an ugly and threatening attempt to undermined social value and prestige. For graffiti writers, graffiti is a secret expression, an urban form of mystic calligraphy, a voice against the" man." Graffiti as an act of transgression against social law and order can be traced back to the first century AD. On once public and privately owned Pompeiian walls and buildings, there can be found obscenities and political protests not unlike most of today's graffiti. In early Rome when Christianity was an underground religion, Christians "tagged" their symbolic religious graffiti on the walls of the catacombs that ran below the city. Graffiti has been recorded to be found in some form in every civilization since the dawn of urban culture.(1) In today's graffiti, the use of spray paint , fat cap markers, shoe polish and stickers has become an extension of past graffiti movements. The public art movement of today owes much to the insurgent artists of the 60's and 80's. This movement was the community's response to the need for expression, much like the response of the Christians to Roman rule. It was espoused by ethnic and minority groups to whom access to visual creativity and expression had previously been banned. Much like the cave paintings 30,000 years ago, humans have re-discovered the wall as an expression of the self and its relationship with the other. ... ... middle of paper ... ...wn." -Eskae, Oakland California. (4) Graffiti is a cross cultural phenomenon that has been common in all civilizations up to the present. Within the context of their production, Graffitis personalize de-personalized space, construct landscapes of identity, make public space into private space and act as promoters of ethnic unity as well as diversity. Graffiti can be understood as concrete manifestations of personal and communal ideologies which are visually striking and challenging; as such they are worthy of continued attention as an artistic movement.(5) End Notes: (1) Walsh, Micheal, Graffitto, North Atlantic Books, Oakland, 1996. (2) Turner, Victor, anthropologist. (3) Kaufmann, Walter, Basic Writings of Nietzche, New York: The Mordern Library, 1968. (4) Walsh, Micheal. (5) Art Crimes: THE WRITING ON THE WALL Available:

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