Graffiti and Street Art: What’s the Difference?

GALO, LA Art Tours, Eventbrite

Galo, the guide from LA Art tours, gave an hour-long virtual tour Saturday showing off some of the creations in the LA Arts District. From the tour, it seems like the works are a primary focus of the area, yet the Wikipedia page does not mention graffiti or street art.

It’s easy to find articles online that talk about these visual assets, however. Galo suggests there’s been a regressive movement lately where some of the art has been painted over. Aside from learning about some of the artists, the most interesting thing from the talk was learning the difference between graffiti and street art, which seems to mostly involve the intent.

Graffiti artists are putting their name or “tag” on something that doesn’t belong to them. It’s about ego, or expression. They are talking to each other, not to outsiders. Galo says graffiti is an act of expression, not an act of vandalism. 

A great analogy he used was that graffiti is like jazz. You can know everything there is to know about a jazz band, but still you won’t understand what it means to communicate as a jazz player. Jazz is a language between musicians. Graffiti, which Galo equated to writing, is a language primarily graffiti artists understand.

Street art, which is most of what we seem to have here in Dallas is “made for likes.” It’s pretty and probably made by people from more privileged backgrounds.

Expectedly, there’s some tension between the two.

We think of graffiti as paint on a wall or train car, but the tour expanded my view. Some of it is sculptural. One example which I was unable to capture with a screenshot, was a cutout of winged sneakers hanging from a wire by a string.

Galo goes into some depth about the artists, the types of graffiti, the painting techniques and the forces transforming the neighborhood. I don’t want to give away too much in hopes that you will take the tour from someone who speaks the language.

I will share some favorite graffiti photos here, however. Check out LA ART Tours on Eventbrite for an upcoming session. 

[Dallas, Texas; Buenos Aire, Argentina; New York, NY; New York, NY, El Paso, Texas]

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