Highbrow Criticism Of Lowbrow Graffiti

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

A drawing of a penis in a bar bathroom

This optical suggestion of nudity articulates controversial simplicity yet emphasizes the complex sexual dynamics of modern man grappling with contemporary Millennial gender relations. Its utilization of negative space critiques the vacant expression of toxic masculinity, while the enlarged “choad” head satirizes the ego of self-conscious virility. This work’s communal accessibility leaves interpretation intentionally wide open, suggesting for its urinal-using viewers any number of analyses. Does this incognito genital appendage represent a sexual assault victim, or perhaps a #MeToo villain? A man courageously proclaiming his peripheral existence in a superficial, digital world, or ironically admitting sexual impotence in an obsolete, analog medium? The artist invites you to consider the plethora of dualities in this stripped-down illustration of cultural manhood in 2021.

“Sorry about your wall” on a city wall

This pre-emptive apology is a vandal’s paradox and witty milestone in graffiti humor winking at the illicit circumstances of its own creation. Existentially profound, this sentence, like us, has been thrust into being. Neither consent nor permission precedes its conscious installation, and now we the audience are forced to intellectually grapple with its extemporaneous essence. This piece is, as Jean-Paul Sartre proclaimed, “condemned to be free.” There was a blank city wall, and now there is a repentant message on it, for better or for worse. Embodying Sartre’s maxim that “We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are,” this apology is an ontological triumph of self-referential defacement.

“Derek wuz here” on a dumpster

A transient record of physical being in place, despite conspicuous refusal to pinpoint a time, existence itself is the artistic achievement here. An identity is tagged, but still unrecognized. Who is Derek? The personality could literally refer to the artist, an alter ego, or perhaps a deliberate misdirection. Whoever Derek is, the creator of this cerebral mystique emphatically disagrees that specificity matters. The theme is an exploration in historical anonymity, and its playful misspelling suggests an iconoclastic counter-culture attitude. Delinquent writing on public property is a civil crime, so the piece investigates the practicality, as well as flair, of anonymity. Where is Derek now? This modernist opus asks many more questions than it answers.

“BITCH” etched on a street bench

An exclamation of toxic masculinity endorsing patriarchal values on unsuspecting pedestrians, this abrasive masterpiece in all capital letters doesn’t ask for permission to grope your attention. Its proximity within a few feet of a community transit stop makes this work both exhibitionist at and voyeuristic of the hourly female congregations getting on and off the public bus to the mall at the next stop. With letters carved by knife, even this piece’s application on the medium of communal bench wood is aggressive and violent, though the art is ironic juxtaposed with both the suburban town’s low crime rate and the art’s female creator. A statement on subterranean misogyny in society, it’s a tour de force of feminist empowerment flipping a traditionally derogatory term for use as a call toward solidarity in sisterhood.

Swear words carved on a public school desk

Playfully deconstructing the power dynamics of modern education in America, this collage of pubescent protest and disobedience is compellingly classic. Featuring standard foulmouth words, including “cock,” “cunt,” “douchebag” and “pussy,” this piece faithfully recreates the nostalgia of public school Americana. Embodying the universal spirit and soul of teenage rebellion, the work is profane for profanity’s sake. With mindfully curated obscenity, the piece is neither specifically derogatory nor hatefully bigoted, but is instead delightfully anatomical. It is a celebration of carnal blasphemy that reorients the post-modern deconstructions of demographical offense and social privileges to a meta-modern appreciation for apolitical, neo-romantic impressions of youthful mischief.

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