Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
Konstantina Drakopoulou, Konstantinos Avramidis
Graffiti: An Art of Identity and its Critical Discourse (1980-1985)
Graffiti is an art of identity: individual, collective, ethnic and racial. From the disenfranchised poor sprang up the “ghetto youth” in New York in the 1960s. Many members of this marginalized youth attempted by inventing and putting into public circulation a new name, the tag, to assert their subjective presence, to disrupt the planned invisibility, to escape political exclusion and to force their violent daily experiences into public view. Graffiti writers also built inclusive communities, the crews, where they learned the value of both self and community, and developed collective identity based on collaborative work. Additionally, graffiti as a subcultural, vernacular art form was produced, for the most part, by racial and ethnic minorities. Therefore, our concern is to indicate this precise creole process that requires the ability to recognize the point where two cultures, the marginalized and the mainstream, meet. When graffiti entered the mainstream art world in the early 1980s, a critical discourse was informed that established writing as galleried “graffiti art”. The scope of this paper is therefore to examine the principles on which the critique was grounded; whether and to what extent the critical discourse was class and race colored; the numerous contradictions between and within the culture of writing and the culture of galleried art.