What is graffiti?

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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When most people hear the word "graffiti," they think of spray-painted tags or sometimes other images that are placed on public or pirvate property such as the sides of buildings, trucks or trains, or really any place visible to the public.

Technically, however, graffiti is any kind of mark or image placed on property, and strangely enough it is usually on other people's property!  But it can take the form of spray paint, it can be scratched into a surface such as initials on a tree-trunk, or any other kind of marking.

There are also widely differing opinions on the artistic (or not) nature of graffiti and whether it ought to be more accepted or more heavily prosecuted.

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cool-me | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Honors

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Graffiti art is an art form. The reasons, including aesthetic criteria, as to why it is an art form far outweigh the criticism of illegality, incoherence, and nonstandard presentation. The objective of this paper is to explain how graffiti art overcomes these concerns and thereby can be considered as an art form. Suppose that Leonardo, Monet, Picasso, or any of the recognized artisans of Western European culture were alive in the present day. Then, suppose that one of these famous artists decided to paint a masterpiece on the side of your house or on your front door or on a wall in your neighborhood. Would Picasso or Monet's markings be graffiti or art or vandalism or graffiti art? The answer may vary across people, but I would claim that those markings are art in the form of graffiti. Their markings would qualify as vandalism only if they appeared on private or public property without permission. The same answer holds for the present day, genre of graffiti known as graffiti art. Graffiti art originated in the late 1960's, and it has been developing ever since. However, it is not readily accepted as being art like those works that are found in a gallery or a museum. It is not strictly denied the status of genuine art because of a lack of form or other base aesthetic elements. Most of the opposition to graffiti art is due to its location and bold, unexpected, and unconventional presentation, but its presentation and often illegal location does not necessarily disqualify it as art. In this paper, I elucidate how some forms of graffiti can be accepted as art. This type of graffiti is known as graffiti art, subway art, or spraycan art. The arguments of vandalism and unconventional presentation as negating the ability of some graffiti to be art is usurped by an explanation of those properties apparent in some forms of graffiti that do qualify it, aesthetically, as art. To show this, I provide a historical context of graffiti, and then I provide persuasive evidence that graffiti art is art. The origins of graffiti go back to the beginnings of human, societal living. Graffiti has been found on uncovered, ancient, Egyptian monuments, and graffiti even was preserved on walls in Pompeii. Graffiti is the plural form of the Italian word grafficar. In plural, grafficar signifies drawings, markings, patterns, scribbles, or messages that are painted, written, or carved on a wall or surface. Grafficar also signifies "to scratch" in reference to different wall writings ranging from "cave paintings", bathroom scribbles, or any message that is scratched on walls. In reference to present day graffiti, the definition is qualified by adding that graffiti is also any unsolicited marking on a private or public property that is usually considered to be vandalism.
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ralphtoms | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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"The difference between art and graffiti is that art is done on property with the permission of the property owner. Art is a creative and productive form of expression.  Graffiti is a crime.

Graffiti is writing, drawing, or symbols applied to any surface without the permission of the property owner.

To create graffiti, vandals use a variety of materials, such as automotive car paint, spray paint, crayons and permanent ink. Etching surfaces is another way vandals destroy property.

Graffiti can occur anywhere, however, some of the more popular targets include:

  • public and private buildings
  • recreational facilities
  • Canada Post mailboxes
  • playground equipment
  • bridges and overpasses
  • public transit property and vehicles."

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