Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Second Thought

(…After all,) Abstract Expressionism is just an extension of Abstraction. A similar connection between the two can be found in the relation of graffiti to the greater street art movement. Graffiti was a total abstraction of a concept crystallized in Abstract Art: the painting was the art itself, not the image portrayed by that painting. As CEPT determines in his 2011 Juxtapoz interview, “Writing graffiti is just actually signing the landscape and declaring it art. As Duchamp did with the urinal…” If Abstract Art released artists of the obligation to make art out of the visual representation of physical reality, then Street Art rendered impotent the social enforcement of art as a thing at all. Street Art is no longer just one separation away from its environment, just as Abstract Art, by lack of its representational quality, was no longer two separations away. Evaporate the narrative or representational quality of the pre-modern era and you have left the art as an object – an empty object, but a thing nonetheless. It’s a vessel for nothing. Abstract Art says, “Go ahead, art is just a vessel for your ideas. Put whatever you want in there. Put nothing at all. Go ahead, it’s ok”.

Graffiti, on the other hand, totally dematerializes the temple of art. You sign the landscape, I look at the wall you wrote it on, and the window above, and the building adjacent, and I zoom further, and see the whole block, and etc. The art is no longer a non-representational, ethereal entity presented in a vessel of human intent. The tag, the signature of the graffiti artists, says, “Look at this, all of it. I own this. I am this. This is what I feel”. Logically, the street artist of the 21st century says, “If this is all mine, let me play with it”. And so, the need for art to be contained and presented is negated. No need for that. In fact, real street art can’t even be bought and sold; it is nearly integrated into us; it barely exists.


Mike Ballard – CEPT interview in Juxtapoz, Jan 2011 n 120 p100.


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