The Evolution of Graffiti

Can It Retain Its Edge As It Moves From the Street To Elite Galleries?

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Rick Hartford, Photojournalist for The Hartford Courant
Photo:Chion Wolf
Jose Camacho, Graffiti Artist
Photo:Chion Wolf
Harmal Cuerves, Graffiti Artist
Photo:Chion Wolf
Diana Rosen, Yarn Bomber
Photo:Chion Wolf
"Forlorn Soldier" statue that got Diana Rosen & her crew handcuffed and questioned by the police for yarn bombing.
Photo:Diana Rosen
The Evolution of Graffiti
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The Evolution of Graffiti
Let's be clear, graffiti has not gone totally legit.
People get arrested all the time for it, and in some cases they should.
Part of the problem is that the word itself gets used to mean several differet things. The press calls it graffiti if you paint some nasty slogan or a swastika on a wall that doesn't belong to you.
But graffiti is also art, and somewhere at its core is the notion of illegality.
So how do you cull out the art from the vandalism.
And once you decide that something IS art and start showing it in galleries and museums, have you drained the vitality right out of the engine block of graffiti?
In other words, be careful what you wish for, when you wish for legitimacy.
Today, we'll look at the current tstate of the art of graffiti and tell you surprising stories of what you can get arrested for. 
Leave your comments below, email us at or tweet us @wnprcolin. 




Hey Colin,
I listen to your show quite often and I listened to your show today about graffiti and public art and felt that while you did let that guy on from public works, you really did not to the flip side justice. I think graffiti is great if it is done right (i.e. more than just scribbles) and done on something designated for it. The problem I have is that you kind of took the issue of illegal graffiti and danced around it.

It really irks me that a lot of graffiti artists have a sense of entitlement that grants them the right to spray paint on other people's property; be it a big corporation like the Hilton or random farmer Joe. If I bought nice a bright orange car that I was very happy with and someone came by and spray painted a blue happy face on the hood I would call them a dick, because I have a right to have my stuff not screwed around with even if that person claims it expresses them and reaches other people.

As for the Knitty Gritty Crew, dressing up a Civil War monument to call attention to its disrepair is not a creative way of thinking but rather an immature way of getting your kicks while feigning good intentions. If the group really wanted to restore the monument they could have gone the much more effective and less disrespectful route of going through legislation.

Like I said, I absolutely love your show but I really do not think you did this topic justice by really only doing the minimum when it comes to hearing from both sides or at least playing devil's advocate.


Monty Python - Life of Brian - Graffiti Lessons


Hi Colin!

I listen to your show nearly every day. I enjoy it immensely! However, today, with this discussion about grafitti, I kinda am really appalled. Since WHEN is destroying property considered to be perfectly ok and actually condoned just because some people consider it 'art'?

So some 'artists' consider that mess 'expressing' themselves. I disagree. If they are wrecking property, public or private, it isn't art. I heard the part about public art and your guest was rather down on the idea because it seemed to him that there are too many people involved. So what.

Defacing property that does not belong to you is still defacing property no matter what you call it.

There was a caller that mentioned the trains and their tags. I look at those too, but I do call it illegal and I think that to condone this kind of thing is way out of whack. This is part of the anything goes position that too many take in this country.

No, anything does NOT go. If I own a wall around my house and some person tags it, I will find that person and have them arrested at the very least.

I wish that you would say something about the illegality of this so called 'art' form. A lot of us don't like it at all.

I don't mind the images, put them on a canvas or get permission, that is fine but to destroy or deface property? NO!