Growing up, mi familia always told me that they hated how “gang members” cheapened property value by adding graffiti to neighborhoods. I mean, I understand how city revenue is spent painting over graffiti on city property but this isn’t a discussion of whether or not it’s OK for graffiti artists to start “tagging” on white picket fences.
This is a discussion of art.
Last month I attended an art show titled Art in the Streets at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in L.A. But this was not your typical art show. This was first time a major U.S. gallery exhibited the history of graffiti. This art show attracted over 200,00 visitors from April 17 – August 8, 2011, topping Andy Warhol’s record.
I suppose street artists are doing something right to top pop art Legend Andy Warhol in ticket sales.
Yet hundreds of people were paying money to view graffiti in a condensed art museum; the same graffiti they could’ve seen outside the parking lot of MOCA. Graffiti is no longer strictly a product of urban culture and it will only continue to crawl its way from tunnels and subways into the suburbs of middle America.
I wonder if it is a generational difference. Maybe mami and papi are just too old to understand the artistic skill required to produce a graffiti piece. Maybe it’s a racial difference. I never see graffiti splattered on walls of predominantly white neighborhoods. Then again, many of the attendees of Art in the Streets were white. I should have directed them to some of the graffiti-heavy walls outside the museum and saved them an entry fee.
Oh wait, I forgot that art is only “art” when a museum says it is.
After the show I stepped outside and a small framed, teenaged Latina named “Shorty” came up to me and asked if I liked the show. She proceeded to tell me that she too, was an “artist.” Her eyes lit up as she pulled out a handful of graffiti art pieces and caricatures from a cardboard box. In her I saw an entrepreneur who was trying to make a profit off her talents and not a gangster. In her I saw a young Latina who realized that people were spending money to see the street art that she lives, breathes, and represents.
I didn’t ask her what gang she was with, I didn’t ask her how many people she had shot, I didn’t ask her if she had been in prison. I asked her one thing: how much?
By guest contributor, Cynthia Pleitez.