Is Graffiti Art?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shepard Fairey Obey GiantThis is an article from BU Today Arts and Entertainment:

When street artist Shepard Fairey was arrested on two outstanding warrants for property defacement last month — incidentally, on the way to the first museum exhibition of his career, at Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art — a representative of the Boston Police likened his work to graffiti.

But Fairey, who rose to prominence when his Obama Hope poster was featured in last year’s presidential race, has since pleaded not guilty to the charges, describing his work as “graphic art with social and political messages.”

The arrest, Fairey’s 15th, has provided new fodder for the long-standing debate about what is art and what is property defacement. Should Fairey be punished, or should he be celebrated?

BU Today asked Hugh O’Donnell, a College of Fine Arts professor of painting, who teaches CFA’s Site-Specific Art course, to weigh in on the discussion.

BU Today: When does graffiti become art?
Graffiti is literally the writing on the wall — the voice of those who cannot find any other way to publish their thoughts anonymously. The term is used to describe a public visual expression that has not been sanctioned by a commissioning authority, something that is placed in public view, unsolicited and without permission. Today, however, it’s no longer anonymous, but instead an esoteric form of self-publicity that seeks the widest audience possible.

Graffiti can be art. Art is what we call something when it carries significant human symbolic expression. It’s all a question of degree, and there is good art, great art, and bad art.

Read the rest of the article here.

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