But is it art?

I recently moved to the Boston area to working at a tech startup in Cambridge.

On my first walk to work, I passed by a small art studio with an oddly straightforward sign in the window.

I snapped a photo of it on my way home that night:


I didn’t think too much of it, except that perhaps the art studio was being a bit pretentious. (I suppose it’s nice of them, at least, to correctly label the product they’re selling.) But then, the following weekend, I was out and about in nearby Somerville and saw this:


Now this is confusing.

Here, at an abandoned gas station, we have a paradoxical, in-the-wild expression of art that claims to be the contrary, with no clear indication as to whether or not these guerrilla non-artists have any connection to the original art studio.

Layers of irony abound.

The more familiar I got with the city, the more I came across the constant reminder that no surface of the Boston metro area is safe from being defined (defaced?) with respect to its status as art. Take this unused billboard in between Inman and Central Squares:


Or this filled-in pothole near Boston University (this photo was sent to me by a friend):


Or this sidewalk:


I’ve never considered myself someone with an abounding appreciation for art. But over the course of this summer I started developing a huge respect for the metro-wide expression of irony.

Here’s why.

The more places you stumble upon anti-art, what first comes off as a pretentious admonition seems more and more like the opposite: an assertion that art is ubiquitous and that the aesthetic doesn’t need an arbiter.

If nothing else, the streets of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and the surrounding area occasionally remind you to look around and appreciate the things you might not otherwise notice. It’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most since moving here.

In other words:


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • EasterBEspino

    what Ethel said I am shocked that someone can get paid $5493 in four weeks on the computer . why not try here googleprojectpay.com

  • Jim Olson

    It is not satire. I am dead serious. We had an “artist” in the neighborhood I lived in in Boston (Jamaica Plain) who insisted on painting stenciled art on every flat surface she could think of. The sidewalk, my garage door, my front door, the side of my house twice. The path through the park to the train. Every trash bin in the neighborhood. We finally caught her and had her charged with both vandalism and trespassing. It cost me personally over $1500 to have the damage repaired, and cost the city of Boston (and its taxpayers) several tens of thousands of dollars to have her “art” removed. The art itself was not offensive, really, but she did not have the right or the permission to paint it all over our neighborhood. I’m all for public art. I even support public art I don’t care for because I think its important to have art in places like subway stations and public parks. But if you’re on my property, without permission, its still vandalism and trespassing, and the courts agree.

  • Gods, I hope this is meant as satire.

  • First thing that came to mind.

  • Tragedy is art.

  • Jim Olson

    It may or may not be art, but if you don’t have either the city or the private property owner’s permission to paint it there, it’s vandalism. And if I catch you doing it on my property, I will have you charged with both vandalism and trespassing. And bill you for the cost of clean up.

  • Indigo

    This is not print. (It’s pixels on a screen.)

  • SkippyFlipjack


  • I smell some grad student’s likely master’s thesis in art expression…

  • I have always thought of irony as closer to tragedy than art.

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