Street Art’s Street Fight

For months, New York City’s street artists have found themselves
the victims of a creative but harsh critique. Graffiti art across
the city has been ‘splashed’ with paint and defaced by diatribes
decrying their bourgeois appeal. As one of these manifestos —
which defy removal with warnings that they have been affixed with
glue mixed with glass — reads: ‘Our Struggle cannot be hung on
walls. Destroy the museums, in the streets and everywhere.’ With
these outrageous tactics and quasi-Marxist professions, the
Splasher (as he or she has been labeled) has sent art world sleuths
hunting for a culprit and brought to the surface a bitter debate
about the validity and limits of street art.

As the genre has evolved, street art has grown from petty spray
paint tags to elaborate murals to trompe l’oeil paintings. The art
and some of its more provocative creators have gained notoriety
across the globe and have been welcomed into some of the world’s
most prestigious museums. It’s this acclaim that’s apparently
motivating the Splasher, whose antics started sometime last fall
and seemed to target a select, successful few.

In a New York Magazine investigation, Sam
Anderson talks to street artists and the genre’s aficionados in
hopes of unmasking the Splasher. Following a lead provided by a
reclusive artist, he comes close but ultimately falls short of a
conclusive answer. While no one knows who the Splasher is, theories
of his or her identity abound. They’re as far-reaching and as
far-fetched as rumors swirling in New York’s hipsterville
Williamsburg that the clothing company American Apparel or its
enemies may be behind a March neighborhood splashing, as the
Washington Post reported.

The Splasher saga goes beyond a beguiling identity mystery.
Putting aside the validity of the Splasher’s objectives, the art
blog
Eyeteeth has suggested that it’s worth
analyzing the Splasher’s techniques in the context of other art
movements such as ‘the Dadaists acts of destruction, Jackson
Pollock’s drip paintings, the Francis Alys work where he
punctured a can of paint in a museum and wandered with it
throughout the neighborhood, dripping all the way and ended up
nailing the empty container to the gallery wall.’ Though
Eyeteeth writer Paul Schmelzer ultimately condemns the
Splasher’s agenda as ‘hokey,’ he notes that street artists might
‘relax a little’ and ‘reconsider the tenuous canvas they’re
using.’

For those looking to engage the street art debate in a less
destructive fashion than the Splasher, consider the option created
by artist Drew Heffron, whose
Graffiti Critique‘ was appropriated and
converted into the
Graffiti Report Card‘ by the art blogger
Brandon Thomas Baunach. ‘I wanted a way to combat the ugly
graffiti while at the same time give praise to the talented
graffiti writers who I feel make the streets more beautiful,’
Baunach writes. And now you can, too: The Graffiti Report Card
can be downloaded, printed, and then pasted directly next to
pieces of graffiti art to share your analysis of an artist’s
creativity, skill, and daring. Baunach also encourages users of
the Graffiti Report Card to take pictures of the graffiti
they’ve critiqued and post it to his
Flickr group website.

Go there >>
The Vandalism Vandal

Go there, too >>
Sussing the Splasher

And there >>
Cynical Picture Emerges in ‘Splasher’
Mystery

And there >>

The Graffiti Report Card: Ugly Graffiti Haters Unite

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