Graffiti Comes Out of the Shadows at Design College
Graffiti is the ultimate art form for a throw-away culture. So said Eric, a local graffiti artist who uses only his first name, when he and fellow artists spoke to about 50 University of Cincinnati industrial design and architecture students on July 30.
Often more temporary than other forms of aesthetic and written expression, graffiti appears and disappears almost overnight as a form of political statement and protest, as contemporary commentary or as a spontaneous splash of urban color. Eric likened graffiti to the random compositions created by a table top after dinner, the shadows that move up and down a wall with the suns daily cycle, or tree roots slowly breaking up a sidewalk.
He and the local group to which he belongs see themselves as professionals. We dont violate private property. We dont do houses, hospitals, churches, schools. We use businesses that give us permission and public spaces for our art, explained another artist who uses the sobriquet, Rifto from the word rift since he sees his efforts as creating distance between himself and the rest of society. He added, Getting businesses to permit you to work is the best way to work. Theyll often pay for the materials because it makes the building theyre in distinctive, a landmark everyone uses for directions.
Before displaying their talents and inviting the UC design students those in classes led by Steve Wuesthoff, adjunct design professor, and Melanie Swick, adjunct instructor in architecture to do the same, the graffiti creators dispelled a number of myths about their fellowship. For instance, graffiti artists are often quite organized and accustomed to working together as aesthetic teams. You cant just be out doing your own thing, explained Eric. You want your form, color and composition to work with the efforts of others around it People think graffiti is about gangs. Its not. Suburban kids do graffiti. Kids on yachts do graffiti . In other words, its about discipline with a definite urban edge.
Its that urban edge which could most benefit the UC students, according to the graffiti artists. Urban edge which comes to us in forms as diverse as rap music and hip hop dance enters the mainstream, including mainstream design professionals, and prospers, changing music, fashion, entertainment and business. The same can be expected from graffiti.
The graffiti artists certainly left their mark on the UC
students. For instance, UC industrial design student Matt Russo of Columbus, Ohio, said he appreciates graffiti a lot more now and will look more closely at the compositions that graffiti artists create. And all of the UC students were surprised how challenging it was to actually create a design using a spray can.
The hardest part is dealing with the paint fumes and keeping the paint from dripping, keeping the paint within the lines. You have to have a steady hand and a lot of confidence, explained industrial design student Alex Adamson of Bethel, Ohio.
For another industrial design student, Darren Glavic of Cleveland, it was his first attempt to create a large-scale design. He said, Its amazing how theyre turning a bunch of boards into large-scale art. As product designers, were used to working on the small scale. I didnt think it would be this hard.