(Work-in-progress) This an artistic series is about artwork, or at least that's the way I would like to think about it. You may think of it as documentary work and I have no issue with that. Perhaps I am a curator, picking and choosing what I think might educate or excite an audience. Perhaps I am a conservator, first finding and collecting spectacles that are ephemeral in nature, preserving them, then cleaning them and presenting them so that you can appreciate beauty both obvious and hidden. Perhaps I'm an archeologist. I'm concerned with not only remnants of human effort, but presenting it so that we understand the context in which it existed. That means letting it explain the meaning in the life of those who created it. My photography may be all this. However, I would like to think there is value in the interpretation and capture of these images. What I present here is not so much just other people's artwork, for that would require collecting walls and fences as well as a brick-and-mortar museum to house them in, but art that contains art and as valuable as art that contains images of people, landscape, or nature.
In this gallery, I am presenting to you something that is often ignored; so much so that when we see it we avert our eyes; it is made invisible. Even the word for it is ugly: "Graffiti." The word is not English in origin and in English it always appears to be misspelled, and suffers even in that. It just seems wrong, and in most people's experience, the actual thing described is wrong. It means "scratches or scribbles," essentially: thoughtless writing. It is often used to mark territory and is typically little different than a dog urinating on a fire hydrant. Not artwork. Most graffiti isn't. Some, however, is; because it takes the quick-primitive sprayed or paint-marker style of marking territory and develops it into dramatic, graphic, colorful, and often political art, caricature, and cartoon. I call this pinnacle "Graphiti."
Taken together, there are three attributes of graffiti and they describe a color wheel of which any little scribble can be more or less of one thing or another. There is "pirate." This is to say that the image is done secretly, is not wanted by the owner of the object painted, and is essentially illegal. Pirate graffiti is ofent a simple gang name, either an territorial marker or an advertisement of services. Rarely, perhaps dramatically, it is more. A second attribute is "commissioned." This is most always artistic in nature, and unlike pirate work, done with the consent and under the constraint of the commissioner. It may be pretty, but it is often obviously censored in content. It presents the style, but is -- excuse me for saying it -- "dumbed down". The last is attribute is "tolerated." By this I mean the artist is allowed, perhaps even encouraged to work on a wall or a fence, but not overtly censored. I found a lot of this in the Polenco neighborhood of Valparaiso, Chile. The artists here appear to provide a service, underpainting entire walls and applying imagery on top. Typically, and this is human nature, the images are not offensive; the artist censors him or herself. Tolerated and commissioned work often has a signature, sometimes even listing a website.
The images I present here were collected over the better part of a decade. Most I have enhanced, modifying the color and contrast for better presentation - as I would a portrait. Where I could, I also show not just the art but where the art appeared. Sometimes, I am concerned more with how the art appeared more than the art itself, focusing on the texture of the wall or objects near by. With the exception of images captured in Barcelona, none of it is in the better neighborhoods. People of any wealth prefer unadulterated plain walls, as due most businesses. Go figure. I also worked to display the sheer primitive energy of the best of this form. By primitive, I don't mean childish; I mean simple and straight forward. It is the graphicness in graphiti that I wish to portray.
©2018 by Robert S. Blum, all rights reserved