My goal in creating this blog is to document creative pursuits. I’m interested in any form of expression. Graffiti keeps sneaking in as subject matter because it’s everywhere and hard to ignore. I worry that in bringing attention to an art form rooted in vandalism, I’m encouraging these efforts, but really, it’s hard to imagine anything that could stop it. The more I live with graffiti and see examples of it that I appreciate, the more tolerant I become.
I’m partial to graffiti that’s clear and easy to understand whether it’s in legible lettering or words that make sense. If you’re dropping Cy Twombly-like scribbles I end up with a giant question mark in my brain. Letters from the English alphabet allow me to consider the message behind the spray painted designs. Often interpretations are based more on my imagination than anything else.
A case for the Abuse graffiti would start with that word. It’s a powerful word that could mean anything depending on the context. Abuse graffiti is usually paired with a second word that compounds the message. The lettering, big, bold and round, is hard to miss. The message seems be spotlighting the world’s wrongs.
Words like deep, mutant and “antsi,” a play on the word antsy, maybe?, add a layer of mystery. These feel like brief poetic phrases that point to an underlying unease. I find it refreshing. Give me something to think about graffiti artists! If you want to shout, get to it. Wake me up with your message and watch me wax Walt Whitman style! These efforts are also appreciated for keeping it clean, not that there’s that much profanity in the graffiti I see.
The abuse graffiti tends to be done in a large format. That takes space and explains why one paint job hijacked a billboard. This earned points for effort and climbing skills. Billboard advertising is often annoying so a bit of “abuse” breaks up the monotony. I noticed the billboard was advertising a health care program. This led me to wonder if our artist is making a political statement or if the billboard represented an opportunistic canvas with better visibility.
Abuse is declared on a variety of surfaces, a fence by the railroad tracks that run along Lombard/Hwy 30, an old warehouse building, another feat of daring in what looks like a medium other than spray paint and the one that bummed me out, the Exotica Strip Club. It was reported (can the Portland Orbit use that word?) on this blog that Exotica was planning to reopen after some renovation. A giant splash of paint, no matter how decorative or even intriguing, is sure to delay those efforts.
In the end depictions of abuse, however intended, can be found graffiti style for those observant folks drawn to street art. Sometimes it’s in more prominent places while other times you have to look for it on the other side of the tracks. Someone out there has a message. The need for people to express themselves against a dark force like abuse gives power to art in any form it takes.