Activating the Archives- Extract
Extract, the most recently released component of grunt’s online archiving project features a curatorial focus on work that deals with “the act of writing and the position of the written word”, with some surprising results. From Tattoos to Graffiti, from the Library to Beadwork, the range and dimension of work addressed within this site presents a faceted perspective on writing and the word in grunt’s history of programming.
Styles Beyond Compare
In 1988 the very first exhibition of hip hop murals took place in Vancouver at grunt gallery featuring the work of artists Rip, Scene, and Risk-E. This came at a time when graffiti art was exploding onto the scene in places like New York. The exhibition featured the seminal hip hop/graffiti documentary Style Wars playing in the gallery space which was spray painted with graffiti. The press release stated “The grunt project is part of an effort by the artists to extend their illegal form of expression into the legitimate art community. By applying their spray paint to the inside of the gallery’s walls they are challenging the public to recognize their work as art, not merely as “mindless vandalism”.
Reading this in 2011 one wonders if this is still a legitimate concern. With superstar graffiti writers like Shephard Fairey and Banksy selling their work through auction houses and showing in established galleries the questions regarding legitimacy seem to be resolved. Graffiti, while still illegal, has entered mainstream culture, for better or worse. The success of Exit Through the Gift Shop, arguably the second most popular graffiti art documentary, seen through its nomination for an Academy Award further cemented graffiti’s role in the history of art.
In the picture set I have uploaded I wanted to create a discussion around the differences between legitimate art and so-called pseudo art. The first image is of spray cans used to create the graffiti. We must ask ourselves, how is this different from a paint brush and paint? Where does this hierarchy in materials come from? Who judges and enforces this, and to what end? The next image is of the materials situated in the gallery. How are the gallery walls different from a canvas? In the images of the person spray painting the wall, how is this different from an artist in his studio or in a back alley?
Does the act of creating in an established gallery space rather a public wall give credence to the art form?
23 years ago grunt put graffiti art at the forefront of artistic practice by showcasing it in a gallery setting. By doing this they acknowledged that art comes in many forms. By placing graffiti inside, they questioned the very notion of art: what it is, what it means to be an artist, and most importantly they questioned the structure of the art world with its arbitrary hierarchies.