There are subjects which easily ignite controversy, and graffiti is one of them. To read an article about the subject along with its comments is to witness a war of words. In 2009, the New York Times ran an article, A Sociologist’s Look at Graffiti, which reviewed a book, Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York’s Urban Underground, by a Professor of Sociology in New York City at Baruch College. The book author was crucified by some of the readers in the comments area. Most see the problem as vandalism, pure and simple. My story, Scrap Yard, was one of my most commented, with all the classic arguments and positions on the activity.
What complicates the matter, however, is that like anything else, there is a spectrum of quality - some of the work is extraordinary. See this group of images of graffiti in Long Island City. However, if I owned a building, I would not be pleased to have it painted without my permission. Some of the buildings are in industrial neighborhoods, have stood unoccupied for decades, and are dreadful looking - drab architecture, no exterior maintenance and a dismal setting. And often they are vastly improved by aerosol paint. But, nonetheless, these buildings are not "public" property.
However, many building owners permit the work to be done. This seems to be a growing trend. And, in Long Island City, 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc., “The Institute of Higher Burnin’," is an outdoor art exhibit space which is considered to be the world’s premiere “graffiti Mecca,” where aerosol artists from around the globe paint colorful pieces on the walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory building. The founder says, however, that "Graffiti is a label for writers who vandalize. Aerosol art takes hours and days. It's a form of calligraphy."
The building in today's photo is the home of Gratz Industries at 1306 Queens Plaza South. I spoke to someone today at Gratz (a fascinating business in itself) and was told that this is an instance where artists asked the owners for permission. Certainly cooperation is best for all, allowing more time for better work and even working with the owners for things like incorporation of company signage elements.
To meander around Long Island City and suddenly happen across something like this is quite stunning. For those who enjoy the finer works of graffiti but suffer pangs of guilt knowing how they got there, take a trip to 1306 Queens Plaza South, 5Pointz or anywhere else where cooperation is at play, and enjoy a new world of unconditional love :)