Time can be an arbitrary art critic. Rock art rediscovered thousands of years later is a priceless find worthy of protection, whereas some artful graffiti underneath an overpass or on the side of a freight train is vandalism. Now, local website SLCBench.com is chronicling Salt Lake City’s temporary spray-painted installments and presenting them as just that—temporary art.
SLCBench.com provides a space to highlight graffiti in Salt Lake City on a more long-term basis, since the city’s urban canvas is one likely to be scrubbed clean by local law enforcement before too many eyes can appreciate sprayed-on installments.
The creator of the site, identified to City Weekly as “just a person with a camera” offers a selection of "graf" photos taken from around the city. Rather than offer the pieces as evidence of the value of graffiti, the site creator says via e-mail that it’s merely about “documenting artwork of the illegal variety.”
That being said, the site creator does see a distinction between gang graffiti and the graffiti becoming more commonplace as just an underground form of art and expression.
“By and large most, graffiti -- in SLC at least; LA is a different story -- is done by teens and young adults chasing a rush or out having fun or looking for a way to express themselves. The percentage of train graffiti that is done by stereotypical criminal gangs is probably less than 1%,” writes SLCBench.com
Train “graf” is of special interest on the site that reads, “Even on my best photo hunts, I'm probably only able to capture 1/10th of the train graf that's actually out there.”
The site notes Salt Lake City’s spray-painting scene as going back well into the '90s, but argues that a lot of the work is hard to spot and easily taken down when put up -- especially in visible places. As a result, the site is not only showcasing graffiti the site-author finds, but is also exploring the site hosting user-generated and -managed galleries at some point in the future.
While graffiti may be becoming more mainstream, i'ts still hard to follow—especially if it’s rolling down the tracks or being painted over as soon as it's put up.
“I think graffiti-style art has gained mainstream acceptance in SLC over the past decade, but I don't think the actual graffiti writers that operate in Utah have realized much of a benefit from it,” writes SLCBench.com. “With the website, I'm not trying to make a case for graffiti being good or bad -- it's out there and it eventually disappears, so I capture and share the work I like.”