May 20, 2012

Anti Street Art

Silhouette Street Art
Last week I drove by the old YMCA on Clark street in Southwest Detroit. And by old, I mean boarded up, not being used, vacant building. The fact that it's boarded up and not open and vacant is a good thing. I passed by and the silhouette painted on the doorway caught my attention. If nothing else it was an interesting bit of street art that was kind of amusing. The location in the doorway was perfect.

Silhouette Street Art Detroit YMCA
Street Art at the YMCA
Anti Street Art
Well, I passed by the same location over the weekend, and apparently someone didn't care for the whimsical nature of the lad in the doorway and painted over it and the artist's tag. Now, this is the second time this past week that someone or organization has felt that a solid color of paint is better then an iconic Detroit mural or a simple bit of silhouette street art. Now, I get that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as DVD's Dad is apt to say "about taste do not dispute", but it seems to me that this solid color of paint is more of an eyesore than the silhouette, and for that DVD has to give it a thumbs down. Count me as disappointed.

Street Art Silhouette Detroit Painted Over
Street Art Painted Over
So what do you think? Better or worse? Or maybe there's the bigger question that the artist never should've put his work on a building he didn't own? Leave a comment and let me know; am I missing something on this one?


  1. DVD Post graffiti art

    I'm ambivalent about graffiti art. I like the black character, the one with the beanie cap, on the boarded door. It brought a little humor to the old building. Now the painted over boarded door is just a black spot, dark and dreary.

    What if someone would have added some thing to the character to made it pornographic? How would that look? The painted over black spot would be better.

    You touched on the real issue of graffiti art when you mentioned the owner of the building. If you or I had a garage next to a busy street and someone painted graffiti on it would we appreciate the 'art'? Perhaps but if not we then would have to spend money to repaint the structure and hope the culprit would not return.

    If the building is abandoned that is a different matter. Some graffiti enhances the appearances of abandoned structures as some of DVD's posts have depicted.

    I see the graffiti issue in terms of private property. If the property is maintained then it's owner has rights that should be respected. While on the other hand if the building is not maintained and becomes an eye sore the owner has abdicated their rights and therefore the artist may actually enhance the building's appearance.

    How about railroad cars? The other day as I was waiting for a train to pass I was viewing graffiti painted on the cars. In my opinion graffiti is better than the railroad company's logos. Perhaps it would be better for railroads to hold a graffiti contest. Wouldn't that produce some really fine art!

    Meanwhile the beauty of graffiti remains in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! To say the least graffiti and street art is tricky subject. There isn't often a clear cut answer. I do feel that street art painted on someone's structure that they maintain isn't right. And I agree with you that if the owner stops in the upkeep, then graffiti art can improve the appearance. I seem to remember reading once that graffiti artists have some sort of unwritten code where they won't tag homes that are inhabited. This I believe to be urban legend and wishful thinking because I've seen many instances where homes are painted on. I also find myself looking at train graffiti, it breaks the monotony :)

  3. Hi,

    Got your message on Flickr and here is my answer to your question.

    In my exploration of abandoned buildings, I have been amazed at the talent and creativity of graffiti artists. If buildings are really abandoned (in the sense that no one is using them and no one is trying to keep them secured), then their walls are great canvasses for artists who want to create large works. Graffiti makes otherwise unwanted structures objects of beauty and wonder. It is part of what I love about urban exploring.

    What I really wonder is why the artists do it. They spend money on the paints, have to worry about being caught, have to suffer fools painting over their work, and get no public credit for their efforts. To me, graffiti is the proof that money is NOT the only incentive in life or even the most important one. Sometimes the thing itself is its own reward. I bet the guy who painted that figure on the door was smiling. I am sorry whoever painted over it could not appreciate it.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      Thanks for commenting, and I appreciate your taking time to answer my question. Your thoughtful response brings up something I hadn't thought about: the reason why artists choose to create in these spaces. I think you are right when you say, "Sometimes the thing itself is its own reward."

      Too often our society equates the idea of success (or worthiness) as one that must have significant monetary value, i.e. "he must be talented look how much he gets paid" or "it must be good, look how expensive it is." And with art (among other things) this isn't necessarily the best measuring device.

      Again, thanks for your response and adding value to this post! :)

      To all those reading you can check out Theresa's impressive photography on Flickr at (You'll need to copy and paste the link, Flickr won't allow a hyperlink in this comment box)

  4. I do like some kinds of graffiti- some is beautful, and artistic and some is simply scribbled "tagging" that ruins a building. But either way, the City of Detroit fines the owners of the buildings that are tagged - regardless of the circumstances or quality of the art.

    1. That's a good point about the City of Detroit giving fines to the building owner. I believe the only way a building owner can avoid a fine is if they commission the art, like a mural. I'm not a fan of tagging. Thanks for taking time to post your comment!


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