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blurring the lines between fine art and graffiti – to mainstream or not?

the bright and emboldened colors of street art speak the truth or protest that many inner city dwellers aren’t capable of articulating (not necessarily a result of lack of education or smarts). when the sun goes down and the street lights come up, the spotlight is on urban art forms and what messages their makers will bring.

as the exaggerated images and emphasized hues peak out amongst brick and mortar, the battle between the law and the artists rages on. in the center of the cat-and-mouse game of taggers dodging arrest and the boys in blue trying to nab misfits for defacing property, is the ongoing debate that transitioning ones art into the legal realm is nothing short of selling out, “nothing done legally is graffiti,” Leon Rainbow of Trenton, New Jersey by way of San Jose California. he is a graffiti artist turned professional muralist that’s been using his talents since the mid 90’s. “I mean, people look down on you when you’re a graffiti artist that becomes successful,” he says of artists who are hired professionally to design for various companies, “you’re going to be called a sellout.”

words spoken with deliberate irony, as Rainbow has been hired for his design work for Velocity 17, a virtual arcade and roller skating rink out of Maywood, NJ, “I think more graffiti work will be done legally,” Rainbow says of the mainstreaming of graffiti, “fines are getting higher and penalties are getting harsher.” he goes by the pen name Rain and is is responsible for vivid art that both celebrates the art itself and its potential. his signature style can even be seen on the skin of voluptuous models that sport his signature bold style in avant garde photo shoots.

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