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Good Clean Vandalisim February 18, 2009

Posted by leskanturek in Graffiti, Public art, Student Post.
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by Will Crosby

What makes Graffiti an art form of the streets?  What keeps fine art confined to gallery walls?  Is it the medium used, or the visual content?  Philadelphia based (graffiti?) artist and elementary school teacher Justin Crosby (my older cousin) explores the relationship between these two traditionally disparate realms of the art world.  His obsession with experimental lettering and typographic art justincrosbybegan at a young age.  Justin, his brother Andrew and I would entertain ourselves on long family road-trips between Austin and Colorado by collaborating on intricate drawings often involving graffiti-esque versions of our names.  While Andrew and I have since channeled our creative interests in various other ways, Justin never lost his passion for creating unique and colorful word forms.   (Photo at left of Justin) Justin’s life is a conscious and active objection to the stereotype that graffiti artists are uneducated vandals whose work is an illegal defacement of private property.  He graduated with a degree in religious studies from the prestigious Swarthmore University and has devoted his life to the education of young underprivileged kids whom he teaches in 2nd and 3rd grade.  While some of his early work was done illegally on un-commissioned walls, he is now part of an artistic crew who do legal pieces and even tour around the world doing live graffiti shows where people watch them collaborate on large wall pieces.


(Above) Madriz, Painted in Madrid with Adios. At this point Justin has worked all over the world.

He has also started to work with spray paint on canvasses and has sold some of these pieces in gallery shows.  He began his work writing “Plan” and now has started to write “Delve”.  He also experiments with a longer word fusion which is “Delovate” (delve, love, elevate).  Below are two examples of his work, one on a wall and one on canvas as well as a link to his flicker site which I strongly urge everyone to check out!


(Above Left) Unraveled on canvas    (right) Plans w/Color Swatches

Justin’s work raises interesting questions about the direction of street art and graffiti in our visually saturated culture.  As the internet and technology change the world of journalism and blur the lines between home movies and professional videos, how will the world of fine art be affected?  Now that artists like Justin have more outlets for their pieces to gain recognition and begin to sell in galleries that used to be off-limits to art that was made with spray-paint, will traditional prejudices barriers continue to fall until all creative forms are held on the same plane in the eyes of the art critic?  Would this be a good thing, or are certain guidelines in the art world necessary to prevent chaos?  It seems many graffiti artists relish their place as rebels and underdogs, so would they even want their art to take on a new life in the arena of fine art?


(Above) White and red character by Nose

Would this transition cause street art to loose its renegade charm, or does it deserve its place amongst the Chelsea galleries?  There are bound to be many opinions about these issues, but hopefully we can all agree that the more graffiti artists who can shape themselves into positive role models like Justin the better.