Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ohio University graffiti wall: art or not?

Round the corner from Bentley Annex at Ohio University and you will step into paint-stained world for the length of three large walls.

That open graffiti section just off Richland Avenue has served as a student forum for promotion and for expression since the 2003 when it replaced the original graffiti wall, which had stood since the early 1970s.

Construction and additions to Bentley Annex forced the removal of the original wall, but students and the university found something worth saving in the wall.

Over the years, the wall has been used to promote a plethora of student organization-sponsored events and fund-raisers, but has also been a quirky way of communication and even a place to propose marriage for some.

One of my personal favorite displays came last Fall Quarter when someone painted "Who Watches the Watchmen?" on the wall, an ode to the graphic novel and then upcoming film.

Because the wall is so open for expression, it has faced its share of controversy. For instance, in 2007, the Theta Chi fraternity had painted an offensive image on the wall or in 2002 when a feminist group painted a large diagram of female...bits.

All of this history stuff is well and good, but is the graffiti wall art? Technically, it's a forum: a place for people to express themselves freely. Often, the expressions on the wall are actually advertisements, which - in my opinion - are not at all artful in their intentions.

What I see in the graffiti wall that is artful is its role in time, archiving life and our transient nature. The leftover paint and the layers that cover old marks all are evidence of moments in time and artistic efforts.

Whether their medium is spraypaint or simple latex paint and rollers, each person who willfully takes a stroke or spray at the wall is leaving his or her mark.

What do you think? Graffiti wall: art or not?

Next entry: bathroom graffiti? Art or not?


Cassie The Venomous said...


annamarie314 said...

I think this post was really interesting. I like that you shared the history of the wall because as many times as I've walked past it, I never would have given it a thought. I just see it as a wall people paint to promote events.
Though I do sometimes feel it actually is art, when people paint cool things or anything that just makes you think, but when it's advertising things, it doesn't really feel like art anymore, it just seems like free advertising for poor college kids.
I did really like your photo slideshow as well, good post.

Stanley Workman said...

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