Graffiti is transgressive, anti-social, even violent, right? Maybe it isn’t always. I’ve featured local artist BUTTER here before, but with a smaller, less elaborate tag. For this particular work the artist has gone all out and created something big. And it’s in another part of town from the earlier tag, although I see BUTTER all over the place. And butter, but only in stores. If I saw actual butter, or even margarine, or “oleo” which I think is contractually required to appear at least once in every crossword puzzle ever created, out in the streets that would be weird.
Anyway this got me thinking about how some graffiti artists form a community. Sometimes when I see two or more tags in the same place or close to each other I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’re the same color. Artists working together in the same area may share materials, even ideas. Generally we may have romantic notions of the lone genius toiling away at a masterpiece but that’s rarely, if ever, the case. Artists work together, they influence each other, and their work becomes part of the community. Even when it’s not sanctioned by the property owner, even when it’s graffiti, art that is publicly on display is part of the community. I realize for some people that’s a concern. They’re bothered that graffiti will just encourage more graffiti. For me, though, that’s why I try as much as I can to highlight graffiti that I think is interesting, that has aesthetic value. I don’t want to encourage anyone to break the law, but if there’s something I can do as a critic I do want to encourage artists to be better.
Yeah, sometimes graffiti is just gang tags, but I think it’s that cool that I see BUTTER all over the place.