Painting The City
February 2, 2010 § 20 Comments
“But, is it Art?”
How often have you looked at street art or graffiti, and wondered something on those lines?
Well, you are not alone. Whether street art should be designated as an art form is a raging debate among art enthusiasts and skeptics. Concerns about street art extend to looking down on it as being a mere form of vandalism, a meaningless defacement of our gentrified cities.
To simplify the scenario, one can say that street art exists on two platforms today: Commissioned and Non-Commissioned.
Commissioned street art is legal, and could be predetermined in many ways, and there in lies the difference. The commissioner provides/leases a canvas, hand picks the artist, and more often than not, determines the content or the ideological boundaries. On the other hand, non-commissioned art exists freely, is illegal. And true to its nature, it is an artist’s unbridled expression of his/her creative vision and idea.
In most countries the law targets non-commissioned street art ruthlessly. In New York, we have recently adopted a new approach towards graffiti removal. An approach that makes the process of removing street art from the sidewalks easier and speedier. City officials can now remove graffiti from buildings and storefronts without the owner’s approval, unless the owner of the property calls in advance to let the officials know that he approves the graffiti on his property. You can read more about it here.
In the UK, it’s not just the street artists who are penalized for breaking the law, property owners bear the brunt of penalties if they do not take down non-commissioned works of street art promptly.
Despite these suppressive measures, street art continues to fight back and survive. Why? Where is the impetus coming from?
In the following series of posts, I will present a real-time view of the current street art scene in NYC.
The Mission: Sniffing out the best and the worst, the pristine and the defaced, the chaotic and the beatific creations that adorn the nooks and crannies of this city. It’s a treasure hunt!
Where: Everywhere NYC. From one locality to another. From one borough to next. We will document it all.
Perks: You are invited to join me on this exciting journey full of discovery! To feast your senses on collages of color and texture. To delve into the meaning of art and its boundaries (are there?). To peek inside the world of underground messages and sidewalk narratives.
With this post, we begin to hunt down some shiny little gems from Soho and Lower East Side:
For many, street art represents a paradox of sorts. On one hand, letting creativity flow seems to be the right way to go. On the other hand, it seems unfair to let unwilling passers-by bear the visual onslaught of street graffiti against their wishes. Having certain laws in place to ensure an individual’s freedom and rights are not impinged upon, is an understood necessity.
The paradox deepens:
Let’s think about the barrage of hoardings, advertisements and commercial messages that slam us everyday in our homes and on the streets…that we have no choice but to live alongside? Or consider this: If cities could generate revenue from street art, would there be a law banning it or a property owner chastising it?
Despite these very paradoxes that befuddle me, when I see an interesting piece of street art on the side of a city building, I never fail to enjoy it. In fact, I relish it. To me, it adds interest, opinion and art (!) to an otherwise plain canvas of a city. Like a visual documentary, it serves to reflect the culture of the time, the propaganda, the ideas and the discontent bubbling under the surface of a society. Wait, isn’t that Art?