Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jim Joe Has A Posse

Jim Joe's Package

I've always been fascinated with bits of graffiti left around the city by street artists, and recently I've been seeing a lot of pieces by Jim Joe downtown. A lot of people see things like this and just see something illegal and defacing, both of which are true.

Jim Joe's Air Conditioner

It is illegal, at least most of the time; I'm not sure on the legality of writing on a junky air conditioner (pretty sure it falls somewhere between "who the fuck cares?" and "waste of resources!" in the grand scheme of things). Jim Prigoff, who writes a lot about graffiti, doesn't like using the terms 'legal' and 'illegal', instead preferring 'with permission' and 'without permission'. That's an interesting way of looking at it, that there is some art which exists because other people want it there, and some that exists because only the author wants it there. Some of it is collaborative between owners of space and creators; but the vast majority of it is a statement solely by the artist, they are forcing the change to the space themselves.

Jim Joe's Postbox

Jim Joe's stuff is definitely a forceful statement; he prefers very public and visible places to place his work. The works presence in a space is as important as the statement that might be written.

The second argument, that it defaces spaces, is also true. It removes the image that was put forth by architects, designers and other original creators and replaces it with one altered by the artist. Sometimes it's a complex illustration put on an otherwise blank and featureless wall. Other times it's simply a name or a phrase placed obviously on something we see everyday, as in the case of "Jim Joe" on a postbox.

Because a lot of Jim Joe tags are in such public/temporary spaces (like scaffolding), they quickly get cleaned up or painted over. This means that a lot of his work exists for maybe a few days, maybe weeks if it's in a hard to get to spot. Most of his work will exist directly in the minds of people who see it, and in pictures taken during the window where it still exists. Something about the impermanence of it is attractive, especially in an age where we like to catalog and document everything. The idea of graffiti art as 'an event' is interesting.

Will be photographing downtown tomorrow, mostly people for an up-coming post but I'll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for Jim Joe.

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