Graffiti–Is it Art?

 

Waiting for a plane in Paris….

My journey to the Northwest Passage had a few preliminary steps required to actually reach the vessel on which we would make this expedition.  Step 1 was to fly to Paris where we would connect with the charter flight that would take us to Kangerlussuak, Greenland, where our ship would be docked.  This charter would be the sole opportunity to get there. To ensure we did not miss the connection, we scheduled our flight from Washington to arrive in Paris 3 days before the charter’s departure date.

Luckily, the first step was uneventful and so we had some extra time to explore one of our favorite cities.  Friends who are spending a month here this summer invited us to join them on a tour of street art in the 13th Arrondissement.  Perfect!  We knew next to nothing about street art and even less about the 13th Arrondissement.

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Our guide (center), the i-Tele camera man (left) and members of our group

For map buffs, our starting point was 29 Rue de la Butte aux Cailles.  After a pleasant lunch at Chez Nenesse (we had a lengthy chat with Clement Boyer, who bought the place about a year ago), we joined our guide Jean Christoph who was being interviewed by French television (i-Tele).  Apparently our group would be followed for a feature show on less well known tourist attractions.

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The above image has been spared by municipal cleaners who have been instructed by local authorities to paint around certain works.  But other graffiti-ists have left “tags,” one obnoxiously (the X-mark on the subject’s face) and one as a humorous response (the smiley face to the right.

First, we learned some terminology (apologies to Jean and others who know what they are talking about—I did not take notes).  Tagging, graffiti, and street art are different components of painting things on public spaces which is almost always illegal.  Tagging can be defined as a basic form of graffiti where the writer would sign his name or signature with the usage of spray paint.  While tagging is more of a representation of self, graffiti or street art is a painting or other medium that can be seen as an artistic expression (or at least an attempt at such), a graphic design, or socio-political commentary.

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The stenciled text is an example of graffiti as political commentary, this one in reaction to the recent terrorist events in France.

Since its origins in the 1980s and earlier, street art has become increasingly accepted in many places, especially in locations such as the 13th arrondissement of Paris. A number of street artists have become internationally known, such as American Shepard Fairey who is best known for his iconic “Hope” graphic image of Barrack Obama.  His story is summarized by Wikipedia.

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Commissioned works by two Street Artists (Shepard Fairey  with “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” at upper right and C 215 with the painting of the cat)

A French artist known as “invader” does not reveal his true name and who works with tile and grout rather than spray paint favored by the vast majority of street artists.  More about him can be found here.    His name is derived from the Atari video game “Space Invader” and his tile “invaders” can be found all over Europe and in a number of other countries. A map is on his websitehttp://www.space-invaders.com/home/

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There is much more, but I have a plane to catch.  This may be my last post for a month, but who knows?  In the meantime…..

Keep Shooting…..

 

 

9 thoughts on “Graffiti–Is it Art?

  1. I’ve read several blog posts debating street art versus graffiti. The line between the two can be hard to distinguish. But, I have seen some beautiful street art. Have a great time on your trip!

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  2. Street art is fascinating. We have a group in Delhi called The Delhi Street Artists. We also have an annual street art festival in February, which attracts street artists from across the world

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  3. Interesting post. I am always conflicted about street art (not tagging or graffiti but street art) because I cannot approve of painting someone else’s property without permission, I do love to look at street art. It often adds such vibrancy to a place.

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  4. Sometimes i think street art is cool….in certain places, but when does it end? Will buildings’ walls be covered in it as the years go on? What really makes me sad is when I see people writing and carving into our natural environment. Rock formations or trees….just so sad. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Greenland. I listened to a podcast about it and saw a documentary. Quite a different place!

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  5. I wish it was contained in spots. They do it some places but graffiti is ruining everything in my opinion. To me it represents the world in how people just talk and spew without regard for anyone else. So is this art form.

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  6. this is such a good post – I cam there forms he ABF forum and wow – there is a lot to look around and see – I will be back – and great commentary and photos about street art! hope your plane was caught on time. 🙂

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