21.06.2019 in Exploratory
Theorising Street Art

The current work will discuss the following question: “How is graffiti particularly a crime of masculinity?” The emphasis will be made on the male characteristics which form the background and the necessity of the reflection of their thoughts and visions in the form of graffiti. Several works of notable artists will be described and analyzed in this paper for providing the support of presented ideas. The purpose of the current essay is the discussion of the connections between men’s nature and graffiti as the crime of masculinity. 

Nowadays, graffiti became one of the most popular types of social art. They reflect people’s perceptions concerning the current events and their views on political and social orders: “graffiti reflects individuals’ views on various issues and can make a dull brick wall stunningly beautiful” . In the majority of cases this form of art is used for encouragement of the audience to perform some actions for reaching some particular aim, for example changing the existing political system. It is notable, that painting of graffiti in various countries all over the world is mainly represented by male artists. This is closely connected with the inherent feature of men, their desires and aspirations, which will be thoroughly discussed below and represented on several examples of the most notable street artists. 

Graffiti is considered to be a crime of masculinity, because the majority of graffiti painters are male . This consideration is based on the understanding that male and female have different views concerning the following matters: their role in the life of the society, amenability to the social and political issues, and the importance of visual images. 

It is notable, that men are more influenced by various political problems which affect them to perform activities for finding the solution of these problems. Moreover, boys are more attracted by some kind of danger (i.e. acting illegally) than girls. Females “still might have a desire to express themselves through art, but they maybe don’t feel the need to prove themselves so strongly” .


As it was mentioned above, graffiti paintings are illegal forms of art in the majority of cases. It is considered to be the serious problem for business and communities through various countries all over the world, including the USA, because the “disorder neighborhood and invite crime”  . The legal authorities percept that paintings as clear messages to potential offenders about the likelihood of appreciation of their possible crimes. In the current work, the possible appeal of graffiti towards commitment of some serious crimes will not be discussed. The emphasis will be made on the graffiti painters’ call to the society to make some particular actions for solving existing political and social issues: “graffiti artists create works that reflect both struggles and accomplishments and at many times display political and social messages” . However, even making of such social-oriented paintings have some characteristics of crime, because of several reasons: panting the graffiti is the actions that has the major aim to brake the existing order, and artists often use unbuffable specially designed paint. 

Renata Salecl (1994) in her work Crime as a Mode of Subjectivisation formed the background of the understanding, graffiti can be considered as the act of breaking of the established laws. This form of art can be associated with the Freud’s figure of the father named Totem and Taboo, who do not subordinate the law, similar to graffiti artists . Moreover, it represents the reverse side of law. That means that graffiti male artists, by breaking the established order and making illegal actions for the reflection of their views and attracting of people’s attention to the sharpest issues of the current time, are calling for the figure of the father, who also represents the non-subordination to the existing laws and standards.  

This non-subordination is highly condemned by the officials. Authorities of different cities take various measures for the prevention of graffiti painting, because of the consideration of graffiti as the form of vandalism. It should be noted, that these paintings not only change the view of buildings, they cause damage to them due to the “the penetration of paints and the methods used to remove the graffiti later” . Hence, officials spend millions of dollars on cleaning walls of buildings from graffiti.  That is why, anti-graffiti coating that prevents from graffiti paint bonding to surfaces becomes rather popular .  However, vandalism cannot be stopped by this measure. Some of the manufacturing companies propose paints with illegal materials which can be painted on surfaces covered by anti-graffiti coatings. Consequently, the graffiti artist buy “unbuffable” specially designed graffiti paint.  That means, that male painters proceed commitment of their illegal actions in spite of preventive actions of local authorities. People are always searching for the new ways to do what they want, even if their intends are illegal and stand in opposition to public norms.

Also it should be mentioned, that men are perceived to be stronger creatures and have greater influence on the social life than women. Males are considered to be actors (i.e. people who form future events). Hence, painting graffiti is some form of “acting out of masculinity in a physical manner” . They use their work to raise topics which are rather relevant for them and the whole society, like poverty, social inequality, and etc. For expression of these ideas, modern painters successfully combine various contemporary forms of art with street art. This mix enables better reflection of their thoughts concerning various events all over the world. For example, one of the most famous London-based street artists Banksy uses postmodernism in his works for the reflection of his satirical views. This graffiti painter combines skepticism of the events which took place all over the world, modern trends and visions. On the one hand, this artist depicts the most important topics, however, on the other hand, he shows the sins of the society. One of his works is presented below.

The success of this fusion is reflected in the realistic and touching representation of girl’s sufferings on the field of the destroyed city. The people’s attention is attracted by members of the film crew who stop representatives of Red Cross from helping the girl. Banksy shows that the imprinting of human sufferings is more important than the actual rendering of help in the modern world. This piece of art makes the audience to notice the flaws of the society, and the irony of the existing posture of the social values. Banksy is rather subversive artist. He puts at stake the realistic representation of the events by conscious of aggravation of the challenging aspects of the modern life. 

In this particular case, Bansky is an actor, i.e. the person who shows the audience the horribleness of the putting of the necessity to make the show before the human (child’s) sufferings. This graffiti attracts attention of the audience and creates the background for people’s condemnation of such the state of things. Bansky reflects his active masculinity by creating the piece of art that facilitates the audience to perform some actions. In this particular case, the look of riot is more important than the riot itself, because it attracts and inspires the greater audience, and not some particular action, but just shows the direction of the great variety of actions which can be directed on solving of the existing social problems. This particular artistic representation is not just the riot, the form of illegal action – it is the look of the riot that forms the background of the future social attitudes. That means that graffiti male artists appreciate (or condemn), and even facilitate the formation and development of some ideas by showing them on the walls, and these pictures form the background of the community spirits. 

The last explanation why he graffiti is a crime of masculinity is that visual imaging is more important for men than for women. In other words, “men are more visual than women” .  These differences were thoroughly studied by the researchers from Emory University Health Sciences Center and described in the work Study Finds Male And Female Brains Respond Differently To Visual Stimuli . According to their investigations, males faster recognize and respond trough visual cuse. The importance of the visual representation to male is fundamental for analysis of graffiti in the public space. This outcome also explains why male pay much attention to the visual appearance of women in different forms of art and by the fact that men use more artistic representation of their ideas through visualization of common things and usual objects.  The example of such representation is the wok of one the best known French contemporary street artists Philippe Baudelocque. He creates his works by using chalk or oil pastels. One of his paintings is presented below . 

Each his work is created by the mosaic of delicate lines which form the organic and, in the same time, geometric patterns that merge to form each piece of art. As per personal opinion, Philippe Baudelocque is definitely the good artist. He has personal style, artistic and attracting representation. Each part of his paintings is filled differently with intricate patterns, designs and unusual shapes. Much attention is paid to details. That is why, these works are striking from the distance, and even more interesting on closer view. 

In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the current work provided general explanation of the understanding how the graffiti serves as the crime of masculinity. This understanding is based on the idea that males have different views concerning their role in the life of the society, amenability to the social and political issues, and the importance of visual images than male. The ideas from the work of Renata Selecl support the view that the graffiti represents the way of breaking of the established order and making illegal actions for the reflection of their views and attracting of people’s attention to the sharpest issues of the current time. Two works of various graffiti painters were presented and analyzed in the current paper for providing the better understanding of the discussed topic. One of the most recognized a London graffiti panther Banksy combines postmodernism and modern street art for the reflection of his personal skeptic attitude towards the relevant social issues. His works attracts and inspires the greater audience to the great variety of actions which can be directed on solving of these issues. Banksy acts as formator of the future events. Also, the work of one of the prominent French graffiti painters is discussed in this work for the showing of the male’s artistic and spider representation of common things, like animals. All the above mentioned features make the graffiti an act of reflection of men’s nature.

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