New Book by Patrick Verel Attempts to Untangle the Graffiti Mural Discussion
In Graffiti Murals: Exploring The Impacts Of Street Art, a methodical study of graffiti and murals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island, Jersey City, Philadelphia, and Trenton (New Jersey), author Patrick Verel talks to all of the stakeholders he can find, revealing much in the telling of his findings. The author says he created this book from a paper he was researching for while completing his masters degree in urban studies, and you can tell his intention was to turn over as many stones as possible to study the impact this grassroots art movement is having on the communities that murals appear in.
Within an academic framework Verel makes sure to interview artists, property owners, local neighbors, law enforcement, and even the occasional Marxist scholar who explains the concept of “creative destruction” in capitalist global cities and the “necessary” cycles of gentrification they go through, often abetted unwittingly by artists.
He carefully studies some causative factors for graffiti writing, metrics for measuring in a sphere of criminality, the difficult distinctions we make between tags and throwies versus pieces, productions, and graffiti murals, and the sneakily deliberate practice of using sanctioned graffiti and Street Art as a deterrent for the unsanctioned stuff.
In the context of urban studies and planning, the creativity here is sort of reduced to pawndom, but as a social factor, he provides examination of the intersections of invested parties. It’s a tricky line to walk with possibilities of triangulation everywhere on this tightrope, but ultimately a wide swath of opinions is sampled by the author and given to you to assess.
Oh, yes, there are also murals – captured in situ, without romance. In this way the images are illustrative and informational amidst fields of text that sometimes gets into the weeds.
Couched in the agendas of city planners, business improvement districts, policy makers, landlords, and straight up economic lever-pullers, the aesthetic and cultural growth of the graffiti scene (and its various tributaries) takes a little bit of a backseat in this version of an enormous half-century long story.
Undoubtedly, every reader will come away knowing something new from “Graffiti Murals” and with a greater appreciation for many of the complexities around them in the US. Congratulations to Verel for trying to make sense of the contradictory laws, opinions, and social strategem that currently guide our path.
Graffiti Murals by Patrick Verel. Schiffer Publishing. 2016 (photos of plates by Jaime Rojo)
Graffiti Murals: Exploring the Impact of Street Art. Patrick Verel. Schiffer Publishing. 2016