Graffiti: Sometimes It Grows On You...

Nov 13, 2012

Graffiti artists often lurk in the dark of night, and work under a cloak of anonymity. They hold their spray cans confidently as they wait to tag their next target, be it an unassuming wall or an abandoned building.   Graffiti also shows up in pop culture and prestigious art galleries. Is it art or anti-social behavior?

Graffiti has a controversial history, from signs of racial intolerance to gang-related postings.  It also has evolved in medium, from brightly-colored spray paint to yarn or even moss.

Peter Van Ael is the project's coordinator.  He says the exhibit explores the use of graffiti in modern society as a means of communication:

"What is being communicated, ultimately, at times has been a mystery to a broader public. So when we can share those things through a broader exhibition, that allows for a  broader understanding for both the positives and the negatives of the medium.  Not all graffiti is created equally."

- Peter Van Ael

Definitions for Modern Types of Graffiti

Yarn Bombing: Also known as guerilla knitting. Using large amounts of yarn to cover an inanimate object such as a car, bicycle or bike rack.

WEB EXTRA-Time Magazine:  The Fine Art of Yarn Bombing

Moss Art: Also known as eco-graffiti or green graffiti.  The artist uses moss "paint" that can grow on its own into a word or design that is left of the wall.

WEB EXTRA- Environmental Graffiti

Free Wall: A designated space where graffiti artists may create their work in a safe, legal, and controlled space.

At NIU's exhibit, visitors are encouraged to pick up a marker and add to the gallery's “free wall.” Visitors can also pick up a recipe for the "Moss Milkshake" used to create Moss Art.


Graduate students enrolled in NIU’s Museum Studies program will present their fall 2012 exhibition “Tagged: Exploring Modern Graffiti.” through November 18th.

The exhibition is located in Gallery 214, on the second floor of the Visual Arts Building on the east end of the NIU campus. It is free and open to the public.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.