Graffiti and Billboard Art


Graffiti and/or Billboard art: Holzer, Kruger, Dennis Adams, Les Levine, Daniel Buren, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Alfredo Jaar, James de la Vega, Tim Rollins and KOZ, Judy Baca, Lesley Dill, et cetera!

Art for the community or the corporation?


Create an interpretative essay on the subject, based in fact. When you quote from a source or use another writer’s ideas to support your thoughts, use quotation marks and in-text page references or footnotes. Any material downloaded from the Internet must be documented. Use visual material you create or find to clinch your points. Label images with captions Fig.1, Fig.2, etc to match your reference to them in your discussion. Most important, defend your views with clear reasoning writing. Be original!


Title: Graffiti and Billboard Art

Name of student:

Course name:

Class name:

Date assignment due:


Graffiti and Billboard Art. 2

Billboard art for the community. 2

Billboard art for corporation. 4

Graffiti art for community. 5

Graffiti art for corporation. 6

Conclusion. 8

References. 10

Graffiti and Billboard Art

A billboard refers to a large printed sign that is specially designed for outdoor display for purposes of communicating a message, idea or feeling. Billboards are often used for raising community awareness as well as for corporate advertising. Today, billboards form an excellent platform through which artists can express their creativity. They have emerged as a key instrument of exploring and expressing ideas that drive marketing campaigns and actions of individual movements.


In contrast, Graffiti is a deliberate marking on property, both public and private. It may take the form of drawings, words, pictures, or any type of decorations that are inscribed on a surface, normally sidewalks and outside walls. When done without the consent of the property’s owner, graffiti constitutes illegal vandalism. Graffiti has always existed since the era of an ancient civilization. Today, graffiti is considered a sign of urban decay, mainly because of fear it generates relating to neighborhood instability and crime. Graffiti also sends a negative message about the lack of interest among the local people about their neighborhood’s appearance. Sometimes, graffiti is viewed as a form of artistic expression.

Billboard art for the community

            Billboards are a useful tool for media advocacy efforts in different countries including the United States and South Africa (Jernigan & Wright 1996, p. 307). In the United States, for instance, billboards are used to promote healthier public environments and policies. Billboards are a crucial tool for maintaining a strong visual presence in different media advocacy efforts aimed at improving public health.

            Billboards are also being used in campaigns aimed at creating awareness on cancer, abortion, and many other issues that touch on extremely crucial aspects of humanity. For instance, Black and Unwanted is a billboard campaign that was launched in Georgia in order to increase awareness about the devastating effects of abortion on Georgia’s black community (Davis, 2009). The campaign also highlighted the need for more adoptions. As part of the awareness campaign, over 60 billboards were positioned in Macon, Savannah, and Augusta.

             With regard to tobacco, community awareness campaigns popularized through billboards seem to be a form of counter-advertising. In some cases, artistic billboards tend to be designed in an organizational setting, mainly by young people, with the target being fellow youths as well as adults. For instance, in New York, billboards were used in order to reduce the power by tobacco advert billboards to influence people into taking to tobacco use (McGranaghan 2008, p. 230). Additionally, the youth committee of the Southern Oregon Drug Awareness (SODA) adopted a counter-advertising project involving the use of billboards in order to discourage people from smoking tobacco (McGranaghan 2008, p. 231).

            Billboard art is also a highly influential platform for publicizing the ongoing discourse on women, nature, and art (Bray 2002, p. 16). Many of the conflicts that remain unresolved in this discourse are clearly spelt out. In most cases, these conflicts arise because of varying trends with regard to the dictates of society. Through the use of visual arts, including billboards, Bray offered hundreds of billboard artists a forum known as L.A Freewaves.

            Minty (2006, p. 423) highlights a situation whereby billboards and other forms of public forms of art were used in post-apartheid Cape Town. The community notion being advocated for was known as symbolic reparations. ‘Symbolic reparations’ is a concept that motivated the formation of the Trust Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Through billboards, people could it was possible to keep reimagining the city as it was during the apartheid rule. In this context, billboard art is conceived as a contemporary, ephemeral tool for critically engaging with issues of memory, geography, and transformation, thereby creating spaces for dialogue. The billboards also take the place of stable poetic symbols that challenge the existing social inequalities (Minty 2006, p. 425).

Billboard art for a corporation

Billboards are a popular advertising media where creative artists make use of the public space provided in order to market a product. Contemporary corporations make use of billboards in order to influence the public to buy the products being offered. Commercial art and fine art have never existed in a harmonious relationship (Bogart, 1995 p. 7). The changing boundaries of commercial art and fine art can be attributed to efforts of painters, advertisers, art directors, advertising artists, and photographers. All of these people have a crucial role to play in the outcomes of adverts that are published on billboards, in terms of their appearance.

Art is often used in billboards in order to bring about varied and conflicting connotations of freedom, sensuousness, cultural weight and expressivity. Aesthetic and artistic discourse has penetrated many representations in the world of commerce in many ways, one of which is billboard advertising. However, the cultural influence that art wields does not necessarily translate into organizational, personal and occupational power for artists. This often breeds tension between commercial practices and artistic ideals. This tension happens among different actors, under changing conditions.

Bogart (1995, p. 8) notes that the conflicts that often exist between ideals and practices are being mediated through the shifting of attitudes about various uses of art in advertising. In this context, a clash always exists between the status of commodities and the commodity status of art. Imagery has always been a problem, whereby publishers, artists, business people, and advertising specialists are forced to contend with the duality of art as both an intangible truth and as valued, marketable property.

The post-modern relationships derived from billboard artworks are based on the strong bond that exists between photography, creative minds, and advertising practices. Then, of course, there is the ever-changing aspect of iconography in these billboards and magazines. Temporary public art practices often deal in mobile guerilla warfare of sorts, with the focus being put on topical, political issues. On the other hand, permanent public art, such as advertising billboards are often perceived as bureaucratic exhibitionism that upholds the status quo.

Graffiti art for the community

            Graffiti is chiefly a product of today’s modern environment whereby many governments have adopted a zero tolerance approach. In this form of art, engagement is often considered a diversion aimed at taming a diverse and vigorous form of expression. Stewart (2009, p. 91) highlights the Melbourne graffiti situation during the 2006 Commonwealth Games, whereby the local council declared that there would be zero tolerance for graffiti. The local council was determined to remove graffiti within 24 hours of being notified of its presence. The city also acted as an advocate for several legislative changes that gave Victoria Police powers to handle effectively with graffiti vandals.

            In today’s society, graffiti is often considered as something that is out of place, which needs to be erased immediately so that the social space may be returned to its proper condition. Removal strategies are often founded upon the assumption that graffiti will always be a blot on a city’s visual fields. Therefore, its erasure is considered to be a way of returning an urban landscape to its pristine condition(Young 2005, p. 55).

However, this ‘pristine condition’ is always a neutral field that never actually exists in any urban landscape (Stewart, 2009, p. 89). Cities, by their very nature, are chaotic. Chaos takes the form of construction underway, advertising that changes scale and technology and businesses going in and out of business. Additionally, new people bring with them their idiosyncrasies when they come into a neighborhood. Moreover, vehicular and pedestrian traffic is a permanent manifestation of city life. Graffiti is one of the ways of highlighting the fact that a given city is dynamic. It is also a reflection of the existing tension between the different needs of the people who live in the neighborhood. This, in itself, is an artistic form of expression.

In some societies, murals projects are initiated in places where it would be inappropriate for graffiti art to be exhibited. These murals are often painted in different high profile locations such as bus interchanges, shopping centers, and underpasses. Other sites that are ideal for community art include toilets, graffiti underpasses, tennis walls, privately owned buildings and dressing sheds in ovals and parks. All of these locations need to be approved by the asset owner in order for the work of art not to be considered as vandalism.

Graffiti art for a corporation

Whenever graffiti writers venture beyond a gallery or permission wall and focus on mass-produced works of art, they tread into the realm that is considered to be both within and outside their culture. The public tends to balk at appreciating graffiti-style advertising. This is because they recognize it as devious to the consumer and disrespectful of a culture (Jones 2007, p. 30).

                Graffiti is often used to address social issues. Postmodernists, neo-conceptualists, and conceptualists, hold that graffiti occupy a space that has been defined by the notions of social protest and opposition. Therefore, they may be said to have become a fertile ground for artists to explore ways in which the public space is being constructed in opposition to the harsh dictates of commercialism.

Graffiti artists have at times critiqued the manner in which they are treated under the law. They often argue that the offenses that they are often purported to have committed are without victims since most of the time, arrests are made without anyone having complained about vandalism. These artists, following the ideas of French intellectuals such as Guy Debord, have denounced the myths associated with satisfaction and social freedom. These myths are perpetuated chiefly through advertising and entertainment. Graffiti artists seem to be filling in the gaps of truth and reality that mainstream advertising companies leave out in order to attract clients.

Some graffiti writers are completely opposed to walls of fame and permission walls. However, it is not surprising that these same writers are intolerant of graffiti-style works of art in advertising. This attitude, though, has not impinged many graffiti crews and writers whenever they are selling their products to corporate clients. Indeed, many writers who have been in difficulties while trying to deal with the complicated realm of fine art seem to be transitioning themselves rather easily in commercial work. However, graffiti writers are under a threat of economic exploitation in both galleries and advertising projects.


Large corporations, for example, Pepsi Co. have been using wall paintings for many years in order to advertise their different products. However, it is only recently that they started using graffiti. Many advertising agencies have taken to using graffiti-style artistic forms in order to communicate with the 18-34 demographic (Jones 2007, p. 31).

In the opinion of many advertising agencies, graffiti bestows an air of authenticity on various advertising campaigns that feature big companies. However, some corporate players who have tried to use this approach have tended to face inevitable backlashes that force advertisers to keep rethinking their positions.


Both billboards and graffiti are forms of artistic expression that are viewed differently in society. Both of them are used all over the world for both aesthetic and commercial purposes. Unlike in the case of graffiti, many people readily associate billboards with commercialism. However, billboards are also used in raising community awareness through the use of public visual space. On the other hand, graffiti, though illegal, can be turned into good use, for instance, through the creation of murals.

The relationship between artistic ends and commercial ends has always been a conflicting one as far as the task of designing billboards is concerned. Art contributes greatly to the aesthetic appeal of billboard advertising. The input of billboard artists is always intangible. This situation is often compounded by the fact that very many professionals are always involved in the task of erecting billboards. Failure by one participant may render an artist’s impression less appealing.

It is unfortunate that many talents that are expressed through graffiti fade away as there is no one to tap it. Moreover, many local authorities in different cities around the world have put in place stern action against people who draw graffiti on public and private places. Graffiti has its place in modern urban society and zero tolerance to art cannot solve the problem completely. Finding better ways of graffiti expression both in the community and in the corporation would be a much better idea.


Bray, Anne. (2002) The Community Is Watching and Replying: Art in Public Places and Spaces, Leonardo, 35(1): pp. 15-21

Bogart, Michele. (1995) Artists, advertising, and the borders of art, Chicago, University of Chicago Press

Davis, Catherine. (2009) Black and Unwanted: New Billboard Campaign Launches this Week, retrieved on June 22, 2010.

Jernigan, David & Wright, Patricia Media Advocacy: Lessons from Community Experiences,   Journal of Public Health Policy, 17(3) (1996): pp. 306-330

Jones, Russell. (2007) Is graffiti art?: A Thesis, Graduate College of Bowling Green State University

McGranaghan, Robert., Rankins-Burd, Sharon., & Purcell, Ted. (2008) Involving Youth in Awareness of, Promotion of, and Political Activities for Tobacco Control, London: Macmillan

Minty, Zayd (2006) Post-apartheid Public Art in Cape Town: Symbolic Reparations and Public Space, Urban Studies, Vol. 43(2): pp. 421-440.

Stewart, Jeff. (2009) Graffiti vandalism? Street art and the city: some considerations. UNESCO Observatory, Faculty Of Architecture, Building And Planning, The University Of Melbourne Refereed E-Journal. Young, A. (2005) Judging the Image: Art, Value, Law, London: Routledge

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