The Art of Spray Paint
Thus, art is born.
No need for drawing lessons, a fancy easel, or an array of different brushes or paint. Just a can, a few close friends and the cover of darkness.
Both teenage and adult writers risk getting arrested and their lives by jumping between train carts, climbing onto roofs and trespassing in order to find the best spot to throw up a piece and get noticed by the masses.
Is it all worth it?
“It’s something that’s inspirational. It represents people who look at things differently and approach things differently. People that go against the grain. It can be with their lifestyle. It could be the way they approach artwork. It means not conforming,” said Eric Felisbret, author of Graffiti New York.
Since the plantation of its New York roots four decades ago, graffiti has made its way from the dingy subways into extravagant galleries. Inspired by their creative experiences on the street, these contemporary artists blend spray paint with fine art techniques taking their work to the next level.
From the creative workings of their alter egos, styles along with tolerance have improved and unexpectedly morphed into a business across the world.
“What it was then was graffiti artists taking exactly what they were doing out on the street and bringing it to the gallery setting. What we’re seeing now is an increment of graffiti artists that have taken that medium, that inspiration, that immediate style and what they’ve learned from it, applied even more to a fine art setting,” said Cris Cook, owner of the Flatcolor Gallery in Seattle, Washington featuring work from designers, street artists and even tattoo artists.
Even though graffiti is recognized by prominent artistic intellects, graf writers are still considered outsiders by a great majority of society. Having been conditioned to associate graffiti with a negative connotation, artists are often referred to as criminals by the public. America as well as other countries by law consider this art form illegal despite what prestigious museums may think.
Having arrested the same teenagers about twenty-times this year alone, Officer James Sinnott of the 62nd Precinct in Brooklyn, New York believes it depends on a person’s up-bringing. If a teen has family and friends that encourages and supports their craft, then they can be led along the right path to the fine arts.
If not then they just don’t learn their lesson.
“It’s a healthier way to channel their artistic ability. I don’t feel it influences kids to do graffiti. It gives them a proper channel to direct their skills. I’ve seen a lot of talent out there, but it’s not art anymore when it’s on someone’s garage. It’s talent, but destructive at the same time,” said Officer Sinnott.
While some choose to walk a straight restrained line, thwarting their spontaneous expression obeying the rules, others prefer to “shake things up” by taking full advantage of the first amendment.
“It’s a necessary evil. It’s important we have rebellion in our society; people to question the status quo. If there is no rebellion, if everybody were conforming like good little sheep then it would be scary. Our nation was based on free thinkers who rebelled. What if our founding fathers hadn’t rebelled?” said Sandra Fabara, also known as Lady Pink, Graffiti’s first female artist according to the Queens Tribune.
The same as there are clashing opinions about whether graffiti is art or a crime, there are disagreements regarding a graffiti artists’ decision to allow his or her work to make it into showrooms. It’s a choice one must make either to further their career into the fine arts and risk being a sellout or remain a novelty solely on the streets without bruising your street credibility.
“If some people want to be purists about it and not exploit the movement that’s fine. You can take a job and do something else, but there are folks who will do it. Everything underground eventually makes a transition above ground,” said Fabara. It’s a given that it’s going to be stolen by Madison Avenue and accepted by contemporary art mainstream galleries and museums. But is it the same thing? Absolutely not. You can’t cage a wild animal and expect it to be exactly the same.”
The key objective of graffiti art, as it is with all types of art is being able to interact with your audience. Every piece of work contains a message intentional or not that is passed on from the mind of the artist, onto the canvas and into the hearts of spectators.
However, the environment in which the artist wishes to convey his or her art can influence the effect it has on the viewer causing a lot of pressure on the artist.
“A lot of artists who want to communicate with other audiences do want to have careers in fine arts and they don’t want to compromise and leave their graffiti behind. They want to use graffiti as their method of communication,” said Felisbret. “The art form was born on the streets and that’s where I like it best. The context of the paints is important. A painting on a canvas doesn’t have the same impact as on the side of a bridge or a subway train or on a brick wall some place.”
Driven by a vibrant art scene of street meets classic, a broader audience is being reached with urban art exhibits showcased everywhere from well-known museums to overlooked galleries.
Even though the majority of people visiting the exhibits are teenagers, its unlikely the art will gear them to start tagging their neighborhood. There’s more of a chance the visitor already participates in such activity and is hoping to pick up a thing or two to get them through the doors of a gallery as well.
“Most of what we show doesn’t look like graffiti. They might be graffiti artists, but it has more of an art, illustration, painting slant. If anything it might make a kid that’s doing graffiti realize there is other stuff that they can do,” said Cook.
Part of the immediate response of this form of art, whether positive or negative, is the freshness it brings to an old craft. It’s unnecessary to spend a ton of money and countless years to study how to correctly place a brush to paper when art is an expression of one’s individual emotions.
“These aren’t kids that went to art school, if they did maybe they went to design school. They didn’t go to a four-year art school and have a BFA in painting. A lot of them are self-taught and have a different point of view,” said Cook.
The art world has suffered a disconnect from the average Joe, focusing art towards stuck up socialites making it unappealing and dull.
Graffiti as art, on the other hand, brings forth an unbound expression of creative workings of alter egos that can be stimulating whether it’s seen indoors or a spattered on building walls. Because let’s face it people spend most of their time at work unable to sneak away for a day at the museum taking in the all the beauty.
So why be limited?
“It’s good to have it everywhere. Our purpose is world domination. We want to conquer it all. Why would I exclude any particular group or audience. The biggest art movement that has ever hit our society is the graffiti art movement,” said Fabara. “It has more people, more regional space, it’s all over the world and it has touched young people. Kids are up and armed to go along. If you don’t flaunt the word graffiti too much, call it urban art, it has hit the mainstream and everyone is swallowing it up.”
Latest posts by Maria Bonello (see all)
- Review Fix 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage: Griffin Dunne Interview - May 1, 2011
- Review Fix 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage: The Bleeding House Review - April 30, 2011
- Review Fix 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage: Massy Tadjedin Interview - April 29, 2011
- Review Fix 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage: Eva Mendes Interview - April 28, 2011
- Review Fix’s 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage: ‘Point Blank’ Review - April 25, 2011