Well, I can think of a lot of reasons, and even some really good reasons why it should be, but I also think there should be exceptions, allowances, variations, accommodations, accessions, codicils, deviations, aberrations, and maybe even some digressions allowed.
Most of my thinking about graffiti as art is shaped by the fact that quite a bit of it is art, even if only in the sense that images and/or words painted on a flat surface is a form of art, but I’m also influenced by a short documentary I saw as a kid about graffiti artists in New York. And these truly were artists. There have been a few graffiti artists who’ve become internationally famous—Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat are, I think, the two most prominent examples—but the artists featured in the documentary were still, mostly, working on the streets. And yet the exposure they were getting and their dedication was enough that they were given studio spaces and materials where they could work legally. They were in a catch-22, though: they had to be known on the streets, they had to break the law and risk being arrested, to become well-known enough to be treated as bona fide artists.
And to make it even more complicated there’s another layer: I think some artists want to break the law, they want to be troublemakers and not do what’s expected.
I have trouble fitting those artists into my larger framework because even though I think they deserve to be included in the exceptions at the same time if an exception is made for them then that undermines their outlaw status, doesn’t it?
There are no easy answers here so I’ll just say that it’s really interesting to me that this particular artist has been putting up these metal images of Steve Martin for years now–the bandana is a new variation.
And it’s even more interesting that this particular piece is placed just a block away from the historic Exit/In where Steve Martin used to perform before he became famous. He even mentions the place in his autobiography Born Standing Up:
One night at the Exit/In I took the crowd down the street to a McDonald’s and ordered three hundred hamburgers to go, then quickly changed it to one bag of fries.
Is there a law against that?