This is not Art.

Ok… I’m a little peeved, so please excuse.

There was a big warehouse party in my neighborhood Friday night to celebrate the birthdays of several graffiti artists. The flyer was super-cool and the party was right around the corner from me so I was kind of excited to check it out.

There were DJs, live bands, an outdoor firepit, and tons and tons of kids (what I call “kids”… I think I was the second oldest person there!) It surely seemed like a great time for everyone else, but I ducked out early as tall PBR’s aren’t really my cup of tea (did you see my post on The Trappist? – that’s more my style). Walking back around the block we spotted numerous kids (aka young men) tearing up and down the street… the rattling sound of shaking spray-paint cans echoing against the concrete and brick. They were tagging anything and everything, in a neighborhood they don’t live in.  Would they do this on the block where they live??!

The next morning I surveyed the damage.

Here are just a few pictures of my neighbor’s building…

tags, tagging, spraypaint, lame graffiti

graffiti, spray paint, lame graffiti, tagging, tags

graffiti, spray paint, lame graffiti, tagging, tags

graffiti, spray paint, lame graffiti, tagging, tags

graffiti, spray paint, lame graffiti, tagging, tags

I’m sorry, but this is not cool. In fact, it’s incredibly LAME.

You heard me… I don’t care if I sound like a stodgy old fart. That brick building is home to people who actually live in this neighborhood… working artists and interesting people. Do they deserve to have their property disrespected like this?

And what’s worse is that I know some of the people who did this are actually talented artists. There was a collection of wonderful poster art inside the party, with interesting and thought-provoking messages. This is Art…

graffiti art, graffiti artists, poster art, oscar grant art

It’s too bad these kids didn’t collaborate, and actually do something interesting, something that might be considered a complement to the neighborhood that would live on and inspire others. Instead, they created a bunch of eyesores that we’ll all have to spend money to remove. Thanks a lot guys. Pretty lame.

15 thoughts on “This is not Art.

  1. jemmyjoe

    I don’t know that taggers consider themselves “artists”, at least the style of graffiti you showed. Knowing a lot of The Kids from that scene over the years, its more about pissing contests, exposure, random expression and being part of a long standing community that does that shit. It becomes an art for some and even some of the straight up vandalism can take it to remarkable levels, but in general is equivalent to kids who swear with every second word and shouldn’t be held at the same level of hip hop or slam poetry. And as for the clean up, those walls seems like they’ve been hit before. Woe to the property owners, yes, but they people who live around there know where they live. 32nd and San Pablo is GOING to have graffiti. Once it doesn’t, its a sign that the people who live there now will be soon be replaced by a more well to do crowd.
    I suppose I’m not even saying you’re WRONG. It is lame, but I mean that its amateurish at best but far from a shame. In the depressing aspects of downtown life, it doesn’t even register for me.

  2. rattlebox333

    With all due respect to jemmyjoe, I completely disagree with an attitude of “In the depressing aspects of downtown life, it doesn’t even register for me.” Just because people “know where they live” does not mean they appreciate blight or want their personal property to be defaced. This attitude assumes that people who choose (or have no choice but) to live in an economically depressed neighborhood have no rights. Or have no right to take pride in their neighborhood or their personal property. It’s no different from people who say “she asked for it” because a rape victim was wearing a sexy outfit and flirting.

    In NYC in the late 80’s the city was overrun with crime. As part of the solution they decided to focus on cleaning up the rampant tagging and graffiti that had overtaken the subway system. The thought process was that if we let the little things go it creates an environment of tolerance for all manner of crime. The crime rate in NYC did drop significantly over the next few years and you could argue that there were a multitude of factors that attributed to the decline. But the Idea that environment does matter is a powerful one. What we see and hear when we step onto our street has an impact on our psyche.

    From the graffiti artists perspective the New York Clean Train Movement had a huge impact on legitimizing the art form. With fewer places to paint and security at all time high artist such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were able to transition to studio spaces and gallery shows. There is a great summary of graffiti in NYC during this time here:

    And a more recent story about an artist who started out painting trains:

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  3. Barry

    The above comment sums up a lot of what people around here are talking about. Sure there could be a lot worse things that could happen in an area like this, but having lived in this neighborhood for over 10 years, and being an integral part of this community, I know that the sort of attitude and behavior that condones graffiti around here is not welcome and is taken as a huge sign of disrespect. I can say with certainty, that these people did not live around here. It makes you wonder, but I highly doubt they would do this to their own houses, or those of their family members. We work hard to clean up the constant amount of crap that people dump on our neighborhood, it’s an ongoing problem. This recent stint of graffiti is one more mess we are left to clean up.

  4. matt

    Last fall my house near 19th and San Pablo was tagged just like you see in the last photo, but with black paint. I was really, really angry when it happened. I don’t think anyone finds it anything less than varying degrees of insulted when their property or neighborhood gets vandalized like that. If it had been a mural I’d have been honored, but this was just vandalism.

    When I was painting over it, it was awesome how many people walking by said nice encouraging things to me and admonished who ever did it. So I totally disagree with jemmyjoe. People don’t like it and they think it makes a poor neighborhood feel worse.

    These kids need legal and productive things to do.

    1. matt

      Oops, I mean jemmyjoe, sorry.

      Also, the link made me think about what I wish we were allowed to do to all those freeway over passes in Oakland -make them into art pieces with paint!

  5. Max Allstadt

    Nope. Not art.

    Arrogant hipster bullshit.

    Territorial pissing.

    Cheap thrills at the expense of the residents of a poor neighborhood.

    All too often when white men in their 20s from San Francisco come to a party in Oakland, they act like they’re in a wasteland and show absolutely no respect to the people who live here. It’s bullshit. Tag corporate property if you want. Tag government property all you want. But if I see some hipster douchebag tagging a private home or a small business, particularly in my ‘hood, I’m gonna step in.

  6. Emily

    It never ceases to sadly amaze me how poor neighborhoods deface where they live. In the Stevie Wonder song Livin’ For The City he comments that the girl’s dress is old but never dirty. Some people have that sense of pride, and that is fantastic. Others “shit where they sleep”, to use a phrase I used to hear a lot when I lived down near International and 23rd — a phrase to distinguish the unsavory homeless from the respectful homeless.

    And I know it’s easy for me to say. I have a roof over my head. I am gainfully employed. I have a sense of self. I have not been beaten down by poverty. I have not been disillusioned by the prospect of a life expectancy that doesn’t quite reach to 30. But I do not understand wrecking your own home and neighborhood. I do not get how it builds anyone up to shit where you sleep. It goes against self-preservation (and, arguably, against human nature).

    But whatever the interpretation of the behavior, I think that there is no way that this is art, or even artistic expression. And anyone who considers otherwise is just plain wrong; this isn’t a case where we each need to respect each others opinion. Just because a behavior has become commonplace does not mean it’s okay. If it were, lynching would still be an acceptable form of free speech, and beating your wife would be legal provided the switch you used was thinner than your thumb. QED.

    1. studiodeb333 Post author

      Like I (and others) said, the folks who did this weren’t from this neighborhood. The problem is how others seemingly have no problem defacing poor neighborhoods.

  7. etscompany

    There is a huge difference between graffiti as art and the graffiti that was on those buildings. That is not art, its destruction of private property. And should be removed as fast as these taggers put them up. The faster and cleaner your property is and remains the less likey you will be hit again. A diligent building owner who removes garbage like this is less likey to get tagged again. It’s all about rep for these guys and bragging rights. If their tags get removed totally and fast they will go else where to where their rep can be seen..

    Fast removal and information about graffiti removal and testimonials can be found here:

    Blogs can be viewed here about graffiti

Comments are closed.