News: MUSE on this …
What do you think when you see graffiti? Do you find it disturbing or do you think it’s art? Graffiti is often viewed as defacement and rebellion. However, for a new breed of artists, it’s a form of self-expression. Cat King, who studied Industrial and Interaction design at Syracuse University, is exploring that paradox in a concept called MUSE, in July along the Connective Corridor.
Maarten Jacobs, director of the Near West Side Initiative, was the brainchild behind this exploration of graffiti. King recalled, “We all thought that Maarten’s graffiti idea was great and wanted to explore it as a subject for the project.”
Denise Heckman, an associate professor of the Industrial and Interaction Design program who is highly involved with the Connective Corridor, knew a student who is a great graffiti artist — Hal Woodin, a Syracuse University Industrial and Interaction Design major.
Woodin greatly admires graffiti and has had a keen interest in it since middle school. He grew up in Philadelphia, the city that gave birth to graffiti. “Graffiti is kind of everywhere, and it’s a really interesting phenomenon. There are so many cool styles and colors you can work with. It’s such an amazing art form.”
When Heckman approached him, Woodin enthusiastically got involved with the project, but he felt that it wouldn’t be right if he were the only artist involved. “I want it to be clear that this is not all my work,” Woodin explains. “I contacted a lot of local Syracuse writers [graffiti artists] to get involved with this project as well. I figured if I’m doing a high-profile, monumental graffiti project, I wanted to include locals.”
King told Woodin about her idea and Woodin approved. The goal was to illustrate the progression of graffiti as an art form.
Clutter graffiti represents the form of the 80’s and 90’s – an era in which people just covered everything in paint. Graffiti has evolved into a more refined style that is skillful and thought out. Many in the art world feel that graffiti has evolved from vandalism to well-considered, compelling compositions. Street art has become part of a global visual culture. Now, even art museums and galleries are collecting the work of street artists. Jean Michel Basquiat started as a street artist in the 1980s and is now being acquired by art galleries and museums around the world.
Woodin and his team of locals worked on the project since December, painting inside a building on the Near Westside. Looking at the art, he says, “The pieces are absolutely gorgeous and extremely refined. I think Syracuse will appreciate them.”
Given the negative connotations of graffiti, Woodin does admit that it’s always hard to tell how a city will appreciate the work of a graffiti artist. But being the gutsy artist that he is, he doesn’t seem too worried about it. He admits, “A lot of people aren’t really going to get it or like it, but I hope that they’ll learn to understand that it’s an important part of the community, and they’ll see that it’s been around for quite some time now. I hope they see the positive side to graffiti, and that it’s actually something that can be really sophisticated and incredible.”
Maybe it’s time to muse on the negative connotations of graffiti and ask if it is an art form. That’s the question being posed, in a provocative way, this July in Syracuse along the Connective Corridor.