Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is graffiti art being pulled into the mainstream?

In the past, individual graffiti artist were unknown except among a few, in part because of the genre's illegal and underground nature. These artists were seen as daring adventurous loners. This is changing. As the art world searches for new and edgy art as an ongoing quest, graffiti artists are selected and pulled into the mainstream.  Street artists such as Shepard Fairey and Steve Powers ( Espo) are becoming prominent and showing work in established ways.  This juxtaposition of thwarting reputation of rogue artist for more lucrative and "credible" sources lead some to believe these artists are losing their edge. The old argument and term "sell out" starts to creep into conversation. 

Currently, Graffiti artist Barry McGee has an exhibition at the Berkley Art Museum.  This show and others like it have some questioning the street artists's role in a museum setting. 
 Ben Valentine writes: 
Although I came to admire graffiti artists partly for their work’s daring nature, a skeptical part of me wonders if McGee’s show was too interested in proving to the viewer that McGee still has ‘it,’ meaning his raw edge that attracted attention for him in the first place. Why else have animatronic versions of McGee scattered throughout the exhibition, tagging the museum walls (above)? Or why have installations proudly displaying bolt cutters and stolen anti-graffiti signs ( below) except to drive home the fact that McGee is in fact a graffiti artist, not just a museum artist, to separate himself from that crowd.

An installation of bolt cutters, stolen signs, and tags; showcasing the graffiti artist as both lifestyle and artwork.
photo by Ben Valentine

Last May, graffiti artist KIDULT made his mark on at Marc Jacobs store in New York's Manhattan, and bragged on twitter "I made some ART?" and included this photo. 

Marc Jacobs quickly turned this around, and put the "art" on their store on a t-shirt, that retailed for $689.00, signed by the artist $680.00. 

Marc Jacobs t-shirt

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