Three apparent aspects make street art to be considered graffiti. The first is the danger and risk involved. Graffiti is illegal and often appears in areas that are dangerous and/or seemingly impossible to reach. There is also the search for recognition. This can also be called “tagging” and shows the need for young people to display their names as vibrantly and in as many places as possible. The last major part of graffiti is the artistic element.
Art is difficult to define, as everyone has varying preferences, experiences, and definitions of art. For me, art covers such a wide spectrum that it can only be defined very vaguely: as a creative form of expression. Often this would be something like a theater performance or a painting on canvas or a speech, which for the most part is regarded positively, however it can also be something like vandalism or worse. Therefore, art is, arguably, not always “good” or constructive.
To me, graffiti is both art and vandalism. It is a creative ana d a relatively harmless act of expression, while it is also illegal and the nature of graffiti is displeasing to many other people in society. Graffiti costs the City of Seattle $1 billion a year to remove from public property, and the chairman of MTA in 1972 considered graffiti a “blighting epidemic”. (Ericka Berg) / (The Politics of Graffiti). Aside from the act of vandalism, street art is often very impressive. Many would argue that tagging is not necessarily aesthetically pleasing or involve a lot of creativity; however, it is still considered art.
The style of street art can also display a lot of creativity and inferred meanings. Even to people who have a very narrow view of “art” and are unhappy with vandalism, this style of art would probably be accepted were it on canvas in an art gallery. However, while the style may still represent graffiti, it is missing the danger aspect that is crucial to street art. Many graffiti artists are primarily looking for attention but a lot of graffiti also has a deeper meaning and a style that is unique to the artist. The meaning of a piece of art varies with every artist and each of their piece. Graffiti originated from a lack of artistic outlets that many young people needed but did not have access to. Their art may represent anything that has influenced the artist, or their ideas or dreams, or may just be a cry for attention. Regardless, graffiti does represent something and is a form of art, and should not be denoted as mere vandalism.
It should be expected that many people would have a negative response toward vandalism, as it is illegal and is the destruction of public property. The actions against graffiti are somewhat extreme, as Goldstein declares in a New York Times article titled This Thing Has Gotten Completely Out of Hand. (The Politics of Graffiti). Vandalism is not as extreme as drug use or violence, which would likely be an alternative for many kids that participate in street art.
It could also be considered an illegal and (arguably) ugly decoration of public property rather than destruction. In this sense, graffiti has become symbolic of the urban scene, especially in New York, and I would rather sit in a graffiti-covered subway than one that was dirty or dangerous.
The need for attention is a hue aspect of graffiti. Tagging is often looked down upon because it is not as aesthetically appealing and is a very obvious cry for attention. It can be compared to the modern appeal of internet fame. Even though someone is anonymous with their graffiti tag, the notion of fame and attention is very valuable to young people. Most people grow out of this, probably when they realize that this form of fame is not very important. Any graffiti artist likes the idea of their tag and their art being seen by everyone, and this is at the core of tagging The legal risk involved in creating graffiti adds to the essence of graffiti, and it is therefore not truly graffiti if it were done professionally and in a legal context. It is also a healthier and safer act of rebellion over drug use and violence. In a way, a piece of street art is more impressive when the artist is not caught. More impressive, is when graffiti is in places that seem impossible to reach, for example, freeway overpasses. The absurdity of the location causes people to think about it more, and therefore give the art more attention.
Vandalism and danger are a part of graffiti, so getting away with street art only contributes to a good piece of graffiti. The most obvious aspect of “good” graffiti would for most people, be aesthetically pleasing. Good graffiti is difficult to define, as it depends from person to person, just like the definition of art.