Saturday, April 19, 2008

Seen a Ghost

BLVD Gallery on 2nd Ave. is showing canvases by old school graffiti artist Ghost. The paintings are colorful and energetic, sure, but to my mind, the "graffiti" that gets shown in gallery walls bears little resemble to the real deal - the do-or-die paintings that show up in the middle of the night on a public wall. The writing that companies use to sell "urban wear" like sneakers and hooded sweatshirts has even less in common with the confrontational power of an unexpected, and necessarily temporary, graffiti bomb.

Almost all the works on display at BLVD, which carry price tags of $2000 to $10,000, have been sold. I have to wonder how many of the people who fetishize "street culture" and can afford to drop a few grand on a painting, would blow a gasket if an artist like Ghost tagged the gates outside their subdivision or place of business.

Graffiti is distinct from most art that is displayed in museums or sold in galleries, in that the entirety of the message is portrayed through the action of creation. It challenges its viewers by pissing them off and refusing public acceptance. True graffiti art is by nature of its own connotations, illegal. This in-your-face attitude is what allows graffiti to move from the personal to the political, granting it a voice never conceived of by traditional gallery artists.

Graffiti artist Shmoo tells Art Crimes, an online graffiti database, that "graffiti is meant to be a public display. When it is illegal it is a political statement, whether the kid knows it or not...When you become a writer, you know that your stuff won't last forever. It is just accepted that either society won't allow it, or other writers won't. Battling and competition have been a part of graf since its inception. The biggest part of graf is in the doing of it. The action of putting your expression on a wall for other people to see is what writing is all about. Graffiti is a temporary art form, like improvisational theatre. You know that your piece will soon be gone."

4 comments:

silentsprings said...

Got your comment, thanks.

Your blog looks great, you obviously have great taste in art and music. I've never been to Seattle but it seems like my kind of place.

I'd be happy to add your link

peace

Anonymous said...

I think that there is an error in your reasoning. The work by Ghost is not graffiti, there are no claims that it is. It is art made by an influential graffiti artist. As you have noted there is a difference so it is wrong to conflate the two. It seems that those who tend to bring up the canard that graffiti should not be in a gallery tend to be people that have absolutely no ties to the culture. Artists like Ghost put in decades of work creating a new art movement that has swept the globe, should he not be successful at furthering his asperations for a career as an artist?
damion

Gurldoggie said...

BLVD Gallery says right on their homepage that it is a gallery "devoted to the Urban Contemporary aesthetic and the rise of street art and graffiti culture." I understand that BLVD isn't promoting Ghost's work as a "graffiti show." But everything about the art on display, and BLVD's presentation of it, screams "wild style" and "street culture," and it leaves me cold. I stick to my claim that there is a huge gap between actual graffiti and stores selling "graffiti culture."

BTW, you're wrong about my ties to the graffiti world. I've been tagging and stencilling for many years in many cities, and am quite devoted to creating graf. If you're in Seattle, you have probably seen some of my stuff.

Anonymous said...

I am continually disturbed by statements made by people like Gurldoggie. you write, "Graffiti is distinct from most art that is displayed in museums or sold in galleries, in that the entirety of the message is portrayed through the action of creation. It challenges its viewers by pissing them off and refusing public acceptance. True graffiti art is by nature of its own connotations, illegal. This in-your-face attitude is what allows graffiti to move from the personal to the political, granting it a voice never conceived of by traditional gallery artists."

1. First of the action of the creation of "graffiti" is not the whole message. Saying that you relegate the art form of writing to an illegal action. If you only think of this art form and means of communication in terms of illegal vs legal you relegate the argument to the same argument that the police and the courts want us to have. You sound like a lawyer or even a cop. The message is the message, the act is the act.

2. Yes, writing challenges viewers by taking over common space and doing so without community approval. However, it is not the only element of the art form that makes it political. Art by nature is political. I am not sure that you know how this art form began and why it did. It began because our communities did not have art programs. We did not have access to clean playgrounds, art museums, etc. because we lived in poor communities and were victims of racist city policies. If we would have had access who knows what would have happened.

Please keep in mind that for a writer to have access to a gallery is a positive moment for that person. Writers are always trying to get their name and message out to the world. A gallery is just another space to take over.

The ability to make a living as a painter is a huge benefit to any writer. It is a plus. It keeps them out of the corporate work world. It keeps them art minded. It also keeps them out of prison. Always remember that we are getting locked up more and more.

And I believe that as these artists, like Ghost, move into these more traditional settings they can influence what is happening in the gallery and in the art world.

Lastly, we need to realize that we not only have to take over the streets but we also need to take over the other spaces that exist. We need to be inside and outside.

still in the struggle.
ket