"The difference between art and vandalism is permission." So said Dwight Waldo, retired San Bernadino cop, at the Zero Graffiti convention earlier this month in San Francisco. The event drew law enforcement officials from multiple countries, convening them for lectures on graffiti prevention, on street art's connection to gangs and hate speech, and on ways to apprehend graffiti artists ("the Internet" figured prominently here, judging from the talks I managed to catch during the convention's public portion.) In his talk, Waldo prided himself on shutting down a graffiti-inspired legal art show because it was being organized by an illegal graffiti artist.
But it would appear that the art community isn't satisfied with allowing those that hold the anti-graffiti wipes to be the arbiters of taste. The folks at Guerrero Gallery have branded their show opening Sat/2 with Zero Graffiti's imagery to put scrutiny on San Francisco and other cities' efforts to repress graffiti.
"As for stopping graffiti... we should nourish it," wrote gallery owner Andres Guerrero to me in an email. "The city's effort to rid us of graffiti is a concern but graffiti will always be around. It's an inspiring form of creativity that all demographics have accepted and have supported. It's a growing culture that should be embraced and developed with the help of local communities. It's a leading contemporary movement."
The convention's program, including ad for "spraycan sensor" that SF DPW officials confirmed have been purchased by the city. It's been announced that next year's conference will take place in Phoenix
The exhibit's artists, Tim Diet and Remio, are both established gallery artists who got their start doing illegal graffiti. "It's an exciting show for all of us at the gallery and they also represent a progressive intelligent community," wrote Guerrero.
Given the dire state of arts education in the San Francisco Unified School District, perhaps city officials should start looking at graffiti artists in a different light. After all, if young people can't find canvases elsewhere, why shouldn't they make their mark on their neighborhood?
Project One opens "Project One Walls," an indoor mural show, on Feb. 7. It'll feature the work of current and former street artists and looks real cool.
Here's the Guerrero Sat/2 opening's featured artists, both of whom started developing their art on the street:
Norweigan-born artist Remio's cluster faces still drip -- but they're emblematic of his transition from street work to showing in galleries
Bay Area artist Tim Diet's "Sorry I Party" still embodies the chaos of work born in public space
"Man In Transition" and "This is Me": Remio and Tim Diet
Through Feb. 23
Opening reception: Sat/2, 7-11pm, free