Graffiti: Not your mother’s portraits


“Tagging”—the art of graffiti—has only recently found its way into the world of accepted art forms.

Existing in the nebulous region between self-expression and public desecration, the idea is still quite controversial.

Despite this, exhibitions of graffiti art have sprung up in established and venerated artistic venues from Los Angeles to New York City and abroad.

Now, tagging has come to Clowes Memorial Hall as the opening exhibition of the new series “Clowes Conversations.”

This ongoing series includes a variety of artists—both visual and performing—discussing their field or their own work specifically to offer a new perspective on the arts to the community.

Samuel E. Vázquez was the first speaker in the series, talking on Sept. 17 about the art and history of tagging.

The talk coincided with his current exhibition in the Clowes gallery space.

Vázquez uses graffiti-inspired techniques to make abstract and expressionist pieces.

James Cramer, Clowes’ community relations manager, said it was a successful first conversation.

“Even I had a different perspective of the artwork before and after his talk,” Cramer said.

Alyssa Dyke, a Jordan College of the Arts sophomore, said Vázquez’s art may not be everyone’s favorite.

“I think the juxtaposition of showing what is now the modern art of tagging in the historic Clowes Memorial Hall provides an interesting setting that some people just might not be able to understand,” Dyke said.

As Dyke assumed, not everyone thought Vázquez’s work was noteworthy.

“It is not art,” freshman Ben Sharp said. “I like looking at the tagging, but it seems more like overanalyzed calligraphy.”

Vázquez’s work will remain on show in Clowes until Oct. 1.

The debut of Clowes Conversations coincides with the 50th anniversary of Clowes Hall’s opening.

Cramer said other departments have similar interactive discussions, and it was time for Clowes to host such an event.

“It was really only a matter of time before we got this rolling,” Cramer said.

“Having it on the 50th anniversary of the hall is just great timing.”

On occasion, Clowes had artists come to lecture in the past, but they were isolated and not part of a series.

The lineup for upcoming conversations includes Béla Fleck and Brooklyn Rider talking about music composition in November.

They will share their commissioned pieces as well as their inspirations.

Another future talk, Theatre Radio Play, will discuss the art of combining storytelling, sound effects and music.

“This look at various genres is geared to aid the community in thinking in broader and more creative terms,” Cramer said.

“It will help people leave their artistic comfort zone and experience new things.”

Clowes Conversations is free to the public, but acquiring a free ticket beforehand is encouraged.

This opportunity to hear from artists and performers also counts as a cultural requirement credit, fulfilling one of eight cultural events students must attend before graduating.


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