Art or Vandalism?

Massive scribbles on an auto shop wall in Lincoln Heights

In my community, it’s difficult not to notice the spray paint markings on public property.  Looking at one of these markings, one may automatically assume the markings on the property is a symbol that marks the property of a gang.  At first glance, the intution may be correct, however, the stigma of thinking that way is dangerous when considering that not every marking on public property is always going to be a gang related activity.

When considering that graffiti itself too is an art form, it’s difficult to say graffiti is only a gang activity since not all markings on public properties are used to mark and promote that intention. For all we know – at least, to the untrained eyes, it could be an artist’s way of communicating his / her work to a specific targeted group of audience.

So if you were to stroll through the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, you would notice markings of words and murals on the walls of local business shops and on school campuses. Then you would ask yourself  ‘are these works mere scribbles and writings on the wall art or are they a representation of vandalism masked as art?’

Of course, the murals on the walls of small businesses and schools would have given the artist(s) permission to paint and write on their walls as opposed to other painting or scribbles that are done on public properties that may not have had permission in the first place.

But my curiosity here isn’t just based on who has permission to paint on who’s  property, but instead, is focused on understanding the painting itself done on any wall. To simply put it: what’s art? and how do you define art? is there a clear, and universal way to define what art is so everyone would agree and accept its terms?

Below are some pictures taken in the community of Lincoln Heights:

(please click on a picture to enlarge the image)

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2 thoughts on “Art or Vandalism?”

  1. If there are gangs signs on the walls, then that is vandalism. What I see is more art because I see no signs of violence on the walls.

  2. It’s vandalism, all of it, masked as art. Even with the property owner’s permission. If the property owner didn’t pay the mordido for the mural or “artwork” the owner would have, instead, just more and even uglier vandalism. So it’s quite literally a form of open extortion. Worse than that, the whole of the presence of this vandalism, elevated to a status of respect as art, reinforces and gives a vulgar legitimacy to the gang culture – which gives legitimacy to murder and violence. Murder and violence are good and justified, says the grafitti art, whether “authorized “or not.

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