Monday, February 25, 2008

Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal

Graffiti removal: the act of removing tags and graffiti by painting over them.

Subconscious art: a product of artistic merit that was created without conscious artistic intentions.

Of all the volunteer projects I have ever done, the only one I had personal "issues" with was removing graffiti on Capitol Hill. Here is an old blog entry on the subject:

My team split in two and we were on the grafitti paint-out team. It brought about some great conversations about what is art/graffiti. The city has some pretty strict limitations on what we could and could not paint. It had to be public. We could paint dumpsters. We couldn't paint private buildings. Everything we painted out was more just a tag, not full blown art. I think graffiti can be incredible in the right circumstances. In fact, I want to commission someone to graffiti a wall (or section of a wall, and frame the area) in my future flat at Veer.(October, 2006)

I happened upon this interesting article that adds yet another perspective. Perhaps the new layers created in the removal of the art creates a new artform altogether?

Or, is this just satire?

I will add to this conversation that I think the layering that happens with street art is part of what makes it beautiful, to me. I love that it changes over time. What started as a tag, gets painted over by someone else's tag. Then the city tries to remove it, but maybe you can still see a faded outline of the original tags. Then someone comes in and paints a figure over the block of primer. Then someone else comes and adds stickers to layer around, above and below the figure. Before you know it, different characters are playing with eachother. It is the street version of the graphic designer's layer tennis. (If you happen to visit this link, go to the right and click on the various "view match" links. Then click on the numbers across the top of the screen. The images will show the "layers" as the design goes back and forth between the designers. I love this.)

I took some photos at a wall recently that has great examples of the layering I'm talking about. You can tell that things have been "painted out." I would love to have seen what those things were. But at the same time, they've created the canvas for new art.




I'm of the belief that street art like this adds aesthetic value, character and authenticity to an urban landscape. As much as I understand the issues with "defacing private/public property" - I still can't help but be drawn to it. I hope to see more and more walls that are offered up as public canvases.

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