Recently my local paper ran a piece on the unexpectedly large increase in graffiti in San Jose, Ca. According to the article, graffiti and tagging are at its highest level since 1999, when the city started keeping track of such things. While the spike in graffiti seems to be a mystery to those quoted in the piece, city politicians have vowed to fight the defacing of public property aggressively, by painting over the transgressions as quickly as possible. I wonder if part of this spike might have something to do with the recent focus on this medium, including the exhibition on street art at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Los Angeles, along with other attentions such as the recent movie Exit Through the Gift Shop. The MoCA exhibition was intriguing and wildly popular; when I went there was a line around the block. Much of the art was accomplished, and included paintings, colleges, films, as well as theme rooms, where museum-goers walked into dark “alleys” and decrepit “neighborhoods”, covered in color, shapes, messages.

The exhibition had a historical perspective, showing early street art up until the present. There were even allusions to the legacy of street art going back to ancient Egypt. With this level of institutional respect given to street artists and with the potential for fame (imagine the possibility of your work being displayed at MoCA), I’m guessing that just painting over graffiti is not going to come close to stopping this form of self expression. An example of the works on display:

Can you guess what this is?

MOCA Exhibition, 2011

MOCA Exhibition, 2011