Graffiti’s Journey from “Vandalism” to Art in San Fernando ValleyJohn Vincent
Graffiti is back in Los Angeles, and in San Fernando Valley artistes like Levi Fonz Ponce are making murals of iconic figures that are meaningful to the community. And to think they used to be seen as eyesores, as the defacement of public property, spray painted by unruly youngsters out to Stick It to The Man. Vandalism, it was called, named after the Vandals, barbarians who invaded Rome and broke all their stuff. But now graffiti’s become accepted in the arts scene, seen as a free expression of the human spirit heedless of property boundaries, now displayed as striking murals in public spaces across big cities like Los Angeles, wall art for upscale establishments, even as office decoration for more laid back workplaces. It’s an intriguing shift, but how did it happen?
According to The History of American Graffiti:’ From Subway Car to Gallery, “the first modern graffiti writer is widely considered to be Cornbread, a high school student from Philadelphia, who in 1967 started tagging city walls to get the attention of a girl. But it was only in the 1980s that galleries began to showcase graffiti as artwork.”
The process of recognition was a gradual one, but while “mainstream society” dismissed graffiti, those in the fine arts scene were due to their own natures predisposed to looking at graffiti favorably, at least when given enough time to see it for what it was. Graffiti, encompassing everything from simple crude scribbles to personal initials to dazzling designs, was an art steeped in counterculture and defiance.
Graffiti disobeyed property boundaries, displayed epithets against the establishment, or just declared of one’s identity in an effort to be seen in societies that would rather turn its gaze away from those deemed “unworthy.” And it was everywhere, from subway cars to sidewalks and alleys… and, eventually, art galleries.
…Like Real Art
It just caught on. Far from being full of snooty snobs sipping on wine glasses, those in the established arts scene were able to recognize the virtues of graffiti and see the spray paint virtuosi as kindred spirits. Other forms of art had similar origins, and the essence of graffiti is as old as dirt anyway, found even in ancient Roman and Mesoamerican ruins. The reality is that, far from being a recent development by disgruntled youngins, graffiti’s been around for forever, existing before art galleries!
Talent is indisputable and undeniable. That’s why the works of these spray paint virtuosi are now being sold in auctions, where collectors shell out countless dollars to have the works of Banksy and other renowned “vandals.” That’s how street artists like Marc Ecko and Shepard Fairey became prominent fashion designers and even made campaign posters for Obama. And also why cafes full of hipsters often have graffiti-esque wall art, same with workplaces emphasizing “disruptive” maverick tech geniuses.
Just Can’t Get Enough
“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”
― Banksy, Wall and Piece
All in all, it’s wonderful that graffiti artists are no longer dismissed as vandals, and are now seen as talents who get paid good money for their great works!
It is because the nature and essence of graffiti is, again, old as dirt. It’s also something that’s incredibly human, that defiance and fire and boldness is something that we all have inside us. That’s why people have come to see graffiti for what it is and why we can’t have enough of it!
At Premium Sign Solutions, we ourselves make good use of the art style, providing our clients with bold and beautiful office decorations, making lobbies and conference rooms look interesting, and enhancing the experiences of these establishments’ employees and customers alike. So if you have a lobby or conference room wall that needs character, why not add graffiti? Want to paint your children’s room? Graffiti! Have a barren parking lot wall – add a mural or graffiti art to make it look amazing!