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Exhibit asks if graffiti is art

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

No one wants to wake up with profanity spray-painted across their garage door, but collectors would pay millions of dollars to own a chunk of wall defaced by London street artist Banksy.

Through Nov. 18, graduate students in Northern Illinois University’s award-winning Museum Studies program will present their fall 2012 exhibition, “Tagged: Exploring Modern Graffiti,” in Gallery 214 of the Visual Arts Building, on the east side of the university’s DeKalb campus.

The exhibition investigates the pervasiveness of graffiti in contemporary society, and considers both its artistic merit and transgressive nature. Graffiti defaces public and private property, but its influence can be seen in advertising, merchandising and in some of the world’s most prestigious art galleries. Within the last decade, a new wave of “green graffiti” has further complicated graffiti’s classification as vandalism and challenges assumptions of its destructive nature.

The blending of street, gallery and pop culture aesthetics forces society to re-examine the definition of graffiti, which leads to this exhibition’s ultimate question: in the ever-evolving landscape of modern graffiti, is this form of expression an art or a crime?

Because this exhibit explores the nature of expression, visitors are encouraged to participate by creating their own graffiti on a “free wall.”

The exhibition is free, open to the public and handicapped-accessible.

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