Urban Art: The Graffiti Image

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Urban art is a modern form of art that started with graffiti art in the 1970s and 1980s.This form of art involves artists depicting various aspects of city life. The subject of most of these works is on city buildings, transportation, and general city life. These days, urban art has expanded and mainly focuses on social-cultural issues such as inequality, discrimination, and poverty that are so much prevalent these days. Graffiti is the most common form of urban art these days. Graffiti is an Italian word that means to scratch. Graffiti art has been historically associated with gang-related activities as a means of gaining attention but has evolved considerably over the years. These days, it is associated with the human needs to express themselves (Nguyen&Patrick 2010, 80-100). Urban art is considered nuisance by some people because it involves painting images on building walls but for others, it is an important tool for communicating and expressing political concerns.

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The piece of urban art that we are going to study is the graffiti image below

The form of urban art above is a graffiti image as it encompasses drawings and writings scratched on a wall within a building on a city street. The graffiti is in a public place where it can be seen by many as is the characteristic of many forms of urban art.The graffiti image above speaks volumes about itself. We can predict the message the artist intended to communicate by making use of the sense of sight. From our sense of sight, we see the image of a black mouse that has been sprayed on the wall. Above the image are the words, BECAUSE IM WORTHLESS sprayed in red and in capital letters. The mouse is holding a red painting brush and a white tin of paint. The mouse has worn a forlorn look giving us the impression that he is perturbed because of something (Nguyen&Patrick 2010, 80-100). The sad and worried look is evident from the expression on the mouses face. The black color of the mouse gives us a clue of the race of the artist to be black. There are various species of mice such as the white mice and the albino mice, but he decided to use a black mouse. The artist has chosen the red color, an emotionally intense color to spray the words above the image. The red color is a demonstration of the anger and rage that he feels as he sprayed the image above. Moving away from the graffiti, our sense of sight also gives us insight into the nature of the environment that the graffiti is set. The dull dilapidated brick walls give us a clue about the economic situation of the neighborhood the building is located. The cracks on the walls also give us the idea that this is an area that has been neglected.

The various details of the graffiti image above and the surrounding environment complement each other perfectly to give meaning to it.The words painted above the graffiti enable us to understand the emotions as well as the thoughts of the artist who painted the image. The dilapidated cracked walls enable us to understand the economic situation of the locality. The graffiti itself gives us an insight into the issue of race and how. The three images complement each other perfectly to show how poverty, race, discrimination and inequality are usually related to each other.

Context refers to the circumstances which form the settings of an event and regarding which it can be fully understood. The immediate context of the urban art above is the social-cultural issue of discrimination and inequality that are very much prevalent in many societies in our world today and especially in the developed world. Racial discrimination and inequality has been on the increase in the U.S.A and is threatening to divide the country into racial lines. The recent wave of shootings and police profiling show the extent of the problem in the country. In a country where most citizens live in urban centers, towns have been the showpiece ground of the tussle. Racial discrimination in the U.S.A centers on the majority whites and the minority blacks. Most blacks in the U.S.A live in ghettos because of economic hardships. In the ghettos, most are out of work and do not attend school. With few skills and contempt for low-wage jobs, they subsist through the underground economy of illicit trading and crime. As a consequence, they are the subject of police brutality (Pinnar&William 2001, 50-70).The law enforcement officers discriminate upon black youths, and they are sometimes illegally detained and tortured leading to their deaths. Such youths feel unwanted and unrecognized and sometimes resort to revenge against the law enforcement officers. This has resulted to shootings of police officers such as those experienced in Louisiana and Detroit. The youths in such settings frequently make use of graffiti to express their anger and frustrations to the society as large.

The graffiti has been displayed on a city street because it is here where it will attract the attention of a majority of people. The artists intended his message to reach as many people as possible. The graffiti exemplifies the moral and cultural corruption in the society today.Equality is an important cultural value for the well-being of any society (Heathcote&Jonathan 2010, 15-51). This is extremely crucial in a multi-cultural society such as the U.S.A.Sadly, the U.S.A society is becoming more and more divided into racial and cultural lines. This division trickles down even in the provision of social services such as education, housing, and healthcare. Recent data released has shown that that black American children have less access to experienced teachers and get more involved in crime (Gordon&Penny 2006, 417-424). As a consequence, their likelihood of dropping out of school is higher. Blacks also have a disproportionate burden of disease morbidity, disability, and injury. African Americans remain significantly and consistently more at risk of early death than their white counterparts. Regarding income, there is a huge disparity in income inequality. The current income inequality between the blacks and whites in the U.S.A has reached its highest point since 1989.The wealth of white households is 13 times that of black households in 2015.The above information shows the extent of income distribution hence the prevalence of widespread poverty in black households (Heathcote&Jonathan 2010, 15-51).

The vicious cycle of poverty has pushed the majority of blacks into crime, and it is no surprise that blacks are involved in the highest number of crimes in the U.S.A.However, this is not a justification for the excessive force the police have employed in dealing with blacks. Data released in 2015 showed that police officers killed more than 100 unarmed men (Pinnar&William, 2001, 50-70). Nearly 1 in every three black people killed by police officers in the U.S.A was identified as unarmed. This data shows how the police have added to the problem of racial divide and animosity in the U.S.A.Their mishandling and brutalization of the blacks have added to the voice of discontent that is there. The result of these has been the police shootings that have surprised the country in Dallas and Baton Rouge. In Dallas, a 25-year-old military veteran, Micah Johnson, killed five police officers in Dallas on a payback mission. The gunman turned a demonstration against the fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana into a scene of bloodshed. The above case shows the dissent, anger and frustration brewing among blacks in the U.S.A due to the perceived discrimination and inequality.

From the above, it is evident that urban art is an important tool of communication. People find it easier to voice their dissent on sensitive social issues such as discrimination and inequality through such forms of art.It is critical that such art should not be ignored, and people should take some time to study them. The message is clear and elaborate for both young and old. The problems been experienced in countries such as U.S.A on race have long been depicted through such graffiti, but the various government has continuously ignored the message. The governments have adopted the antics of burying one's head in the sand instead of dealing with the issues head on. It is the high time that the society should move away from ignorance and appreciate art as an important medium of communication.


Gordon-Larsen, Penny, Melissa C. Nelson, Phil Page, and Barry M. Popkin. "Inequality in the built environment underlies key health disparities in physical activity and obesity." Pediatrics 117, no. 2 (2006): 417-424.

Heathcote, Jonathan, Fabrizio Perri, and Giovanni L. Violante. "Unequal we stand: An empirical analysis of economic inequality in the United States, 19672006." Review of Economic dynamics 13, no. 1 (2010): 15-51.

Nguyen, Patrick. Beyond the street: the 100 leading figures in urban art. Gestalten, (2010):80-100

Pinar, William F. "The gender of racial politics and violence in America." New York: Peter Lang (2001):50-70


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