Graffiti as an Art Form: Analysis

Subject: Art
Pages: 9
Words: 2278
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


During my junior and senior years at the International School of Bangkok, I served as the president of an art club and an International Baccalaureate Higher Level art student. This offered me an opportunity to organize an activity for the orphanage kids to prepare art projects on a weekly basis. I enjoyed the art projects since they offered an opportunity to express feelings and emotions. Art entails communication, problem solving, time management, and provides an opportunity for reflecting on our daily lives. There are different forms of art. They include: graffiti, hip-hop, street theater, graphic novels. These different forms of art provide an ongoing interaction with the world by offering an opportunity for expressing our creativity. Recently, in “Graffiti vandals cost public millions” an article that was published in the Seattle Times on April 25, 2010 indicated that a graffiti ranger was sent out on a daily basis to clean out the graffiti paintings on walls, bridges, trash cans, postal boxes and stair wells (Krishnan). This form of graffiti is referred to as graffiti art, subway art, or spray-can art. Generally, there is a conventional misconception among the public that graffiti is a form of vandalism rather than an art form. The arguments that categorize graffiti as vandalism are derived from the fact that graffiti represents an unconventional type of presentation that contradicts its ability to be classified as an art. However, this argument is disapproved by the justification of some of the graffiti features that qualify it as form art; these features include the aesthetic value of graffiti. Thus, Seattle Public Utilities should stop spending its money on removing graffiti because graffiti is a form of art that provides an opportunity for people to express their feelings.

Discussion of issues

The history of graffiti dates back to the beginnings of human beings and societal organization. Graffiti art has been discovered in such conservative items as antique Egyptian tombstones and walls in Pompeii (Kristol). Grafficar which is singular for graffiti is an Italian word that indicates depictions, markings, prototypes, scribbles and messages that are painted, written, or imprinted on a wall or another form of surface. Additionally, graffiti signify wall writings that vary from cave paintings to wall scribbles or any other types of messages that are scrawled on surfaces (Kristol). The contemporary day definition of graffiti comprises of unsolicited markings on both private and public properties. This forms the main reason why graffiti is termed as vandalism.

The history of graffiti dates back to over a million years ago. The Romans were used to writing on the walls of the territories they occupied while the cavemen drew diagrams on the walls of their caves. Despite the long history of graffiti; the United States has a very short history of this form of art ( In the late 1960s, graffiti was primarily used by politicians to pass their political statements and by the street gangs to mark their territories in such countries as Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Though the writings identity has received some appreciation lately, it is not readily accepted as a form of art such as the forms of art that are found in the museums or galleries.

The modern day art graffiti was invented from New York. In New York it was referred to as New York Style graffiti (Hip Hop). The origins of the art cannot be accurately traced; however, it’s projected that the art may have found its way into New York through deliberate efforts of spontaneous occurrence. Art started from humble beginnings of tagging or writing of names on a street signs; the street gangs used art as a means of marking their territories. However, the art grew fast to become a form of inspiration to young artists to express their emotions. Whatever the mood of the artists, the graffitists were able to create something creative. Soon graffiti moved from the streets to the subways and later developed into a form of competition between different artists. Graffitists often competed for space something that angered many property owners. Additionally, there is a concept that graffiti represents gang activity. These two factors contributed to the community pressure on graffiti art. However, despite the constant and increasing pressure; graffitists have continued to improve this form of art that is constantly changing.

Graffiti should be viewed as a form of art rather than as a form of vandalism. There are diverse types of graffiti art; the simplest types incorporate personal markings such as slogans, slurs, and opinionated statements. Another form includes the simple and fancy scribble of a persons name or nick name. A majority of these types of graffiti are found in exterior surfaces, retaining walls, walls or haunted buildings. There are deep misconceptions of graffiti among a significant majority of people who view it as vandalism. The major squabble against graffiti is that spray cans do not characterize a legitimate form of creative medium since in most cases they are used by criminal and malicious social campaigners. However, there are excellent graffitists who are contracted to decorate buildings and offices.

As a form of art, graffiti requires the technical capacity to use the necessary tools such as can sprays and in addition to excellent creativity and personal judgment. In addition, effecting a section of graffiti art or fabrication necessitates a great deal of creativity, preparation and sweat. The process of creating graffiti is a complex one; it entails various stages. The steps of making a graffiti include: the graffitist making a sketch; this is followed by planning out of characters and setting out of colors; then selection of a suitable surface of making the preliminary outline follows; and lastly, the process is completed by filling of colors and ornamentation. Thus, the creation of graffiti entails a similar process to other forms of art since all other forms of art would entail a preliminary sketch and the selection of a medium for use. Therefore, graffiti should not be taken for granted after all the efforts and time that are input by the graffitists in their creation. Similar to other types of art, graffiti can be evaluated in terms of color, line, and structures that are contained in the work. The other reason that validates the evaluation of graffiti as an art is the graffitist intention.

Discussion of the solutions and alternatives

Graffiti forms a basis for self expression. Graffiti forms an artistic channel for conversing with fellow artists and the public in general. Graffiti art signifies the graffitist’s own ideas, identity and expression. The decisions of an artist are exclusively based on the artistic capabilities. Thus, graffiti should be appreciated as a form of communication since it connects different people despite their cultural, lingual, or racial variations in such a way that is unachievable to other forms of art. In addition to promoting self expression, the production of graffiti as a crew promotes team work and the achievement of a common goal. The feeling of accomplishment forms the most important factor to the artists. According to Irvine graffitists perceive their art as a ritual misdemeanor against repressive political and political systems; graffitists perceive themselves as revolutionaries reacting against an established system of art market or gallery system in which they are not included. Additionally, some of artists evaluate their creations on the public and private arena. Additionally, they use their creations to oppose the western ideologies on capitalism and private property (Kristol). In addition to providing a platform for the expression of feelings, graffiti provide a voice for the people towards certain ideas. Unfortunately, graffiti is still considered a criminal activity in the 21st century; the majority of the graffiti that we see on the streets, tunnels, and billboards are considered as criminal and a form of vandalism rather than a form of art. Considering the freedom of speech and expression in America; graffiti should be considered as a form of communication and expression of emotion.

Graffiti has a valuable aesthetic value to the society. Graffiti arts are made in areas that would otherwise be horrifying if left blank such as a wall in a vacant parking lot or in an deserted building. Thus, graffiti should be viewed similarly to the conventional ancient drawings that were discovered inside caves. However, these drawings are not viewed as graffiti rather as an art and a part of history. Furthermore, the artistic value and standard form the principal element of color and the complicated issue of the artist’s objective which are attributed to other works in order to classify them as an art. Al these features can be found in graffiti; thus, it should be categorized as an art. The major issue that results to rejection of graffiti as a form of art is the location and presentation of the graffiti art. Indeed, the issues of location and presentation form the most basic issue why graffiti is not accepted as an art ( However, graffiti should not be discarded simply because of its eccentric appearance and location; i.e. primarily because it is not framed and placed in a museum or a gallery. Drawing graffiti on a passageway or a building’s wall without authorization only makes it a form of spontaneous art. Though graffiti can be labeled as vandalism; this does not exclude it from being a form of art. Thus, the classification of graffiti as a form of spontaneous art justifies the vandalism classification and their deletion from certain surfaces; however, the vandalism feature can be viewed as additional feature of uniqueness of the art rather than a disturbing feature. Additionally, graffiti varies from the other types of art due to its presentation. Though graffiti takes a substantial amount of energy and resources, the art may be gone in a matter of minutes. Thus, considering the uniqueness of graffiti art, Seattle Public Utilities should respect graffiti artists since they use their art as a means of conveying particular messages. Graffitists who are creating a form of art and displaying our time in history should not be categorized as criminals; rather, they should be celebrated.

Graffiti is also criticized on the grounds that it is complex and hard to comprehend. This should not be used as the basis for disqualifying graffiti as an art since obscurity of abstract art or Picasso’s cubism are considered as art. Graffiti takes us from the real to the virtual world. The transfer from the real world to the virtual world is promoted by the gallery disposition and the dark surroundings of the opera room. In the majority of the times when we are transferred by art to other worlds we are in an atmosphere that allows for such activity to happen (Goldman). However, these situations are not replicated in the case of graffiti art; graffiti appears suddenly and in the most unexpected places. We are elated to these other worlds in an ambiance that we are not familiarized to. We are all accustomed to believe art are those pieces that are displayed in a museum or gallery; we are not accustomed to approaching art from external and unconventional settings. However, the exclusivity of graffiti is improved by the fact that it attains to the viewer instead of the viewer going to the museum or gallery view the pieces of art; at times this is achieved in a startling manner. Graffiti is a type of art that is open to the view of the broad public since it is not restricted to a gallery or a museum. The institutional theory describes art as an item that is exhibited by the art world to be accepted as an art according to the members of the art world meaning of art (Irvine). Since graffiti is not permanently established in museums and galleries, it is often not categorized as a form of art. However, there are instances where graffiti is recognized as an art; in the late 1970’s museums and galleries in New York and Europe introduced graffiti into the art world.

Lee Quinones exemplifies a clique of graffiti artists. He is regarded as the most influential artists to appear from New York City subway art movement. The artist is renowned in both the contemporary art world and in the popular culture environs for creating art work that is well seasoned with stimulating social and political materials and complicated symphony. According to Dirty Bandits the art works of Lee can be found in the permanent collections of various museums. These museums include: the Whitney Museum of Art, the Museum of the City New York, and the Groninger Museum among other museums (Dirty Bandits). Additionally, the author’s works have been displayed in the Museum of National Monuments in Paris, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, France and the Staatliche Museum in Germany (Dirty Bandits).


Thus, graffiti is a form of spray can art. It is comprised of the form, color, and other base properties. These features are arranged in a manner and structure that qualify graffiti as a piece of art. Additionally, the evaluation of the spray cans art as per the artist’s intention and value to the audiences signifies that graffiti is an authentic form of art. Thus, Seattle Public Utilities should stop using graffiti rangers and spending millions of dollars to clean walls that contain graffiti art. Seattle Public Utilities should set out a special place for the graffiti artists to express their emotions. Each month could be used to represent different themes and once the walls are filled with graffiti the space can be opened to the public as an art gallery. Admission fees could be charged to support the local artists and create additional walls for additional graffiti projects.

Works Cited Graffiti as an Art Form. Web.

Dirty Bandits. Lee Quinones: Home. Web.

Goldman, Peter. Blowup, Film Theory, and the Logic of Realism. Web.

Hip Hop. Graffiti Art. Web.

Irvine, Martin. Institutional Theory of Art and the Artworld. Web Hosting. Web.

Krishnan, Sonia. Graffiti Vandals Cost Public Millions. Seattle Times. Web.

Kristol, Irving. Speeches & Testimony: The Capitalist Future. Web.