Generally speaking, the art field has been highly diversified over decades since the cave age, passing through Roman and Greek civilizations to the current era. In the 1960s, a new wave of visual arts evolved into the term Modern graffiti. This visual art is defined by mainly sprayed paintings, drawings, and calligraphies in public spaces.
When designs are promoting one unique message, art delivers many! Since different messages mean different points of view, art forms are controversial concepts in all countries, communities, and societies.

Graffiti is controversial like many other fields: When some groups see it as an art delivering messages and creating good vibes in urban layouts, others see it as a deterioration of public areas. However, these wall paintings are reflecting urban culture worldwide.

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Whatever_ ©Carlos Antonosri

Cornbread Loves Cynthia

The controversy started in the United States in the 1960s by Darly Alexander McCray also known as the “Legend Cornbread” (Rock Bells, 2020). According to the story, Cornbread was in love with a girl named Cynthia and he could not have the courage to tell her. While seeing some tags in public spaces such as names, nicknames, and small statements engraved or sprayed on walls, he filled the walls of Philadelphia with the famous phrase “Cornbread Loves Cynthia”. Things went viral so this action started to appear in New York City as the flare of Modern Graffiti. This new artistic wave started to fall into controversy on the one hand and to reach the whole world as a new artistic field on the other hand. 

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Cornbread Graffiti_ ©

Vandalism Vs. Street Art

Explaining the controversy of graffiti goes in line with the differentiation between vandalism and street art. If the term vandalism refers to the deterioration and defacement of the public, street art is the expression of artistic pieces in the public realm for the public to see.

The vandalism of graffiti is related to the promotion of turfed wars, provoking damage to local businesses, and the devaluation of properties (See Brilliance). According to the vandalism perception, graffiti makes public spaces unsafe, leads some businesses to be boycotted, and pushes residents to move away!

On the other hand, others see graffiti art as a way to positively impact society and culture. Even though anti-graffiti efforts are working to stop this street art, graffiti is now a cultural tradition (Martin, 2023). It is widely seen nowadays that graffiti art is expanding to be exhibited in museums and exhibitions. Adding to this, many graffiti artists are being recognized by the media and award-giving foundations despite all efforts to stop them.

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Hands_ ©David Bland

The Urban Culture of Graffiti

Today, graffiti artworks are considered a core field in promoting cultural concepts in urban areas and communities through three main potential factors: Social activism, the influence on pop culture, and reducing gender equality (Faster Capital, 2024).

First, graffiti is one of the most popular acts of revolution and protest. For instance, during the Lebanese Revolution of 17th October 2019, protestors expressed their thoughts and deep anger in several graffiti works across the country.

Second, graffiti artists are catalysts in pop culture expressed in four mediums: Music industries, advertisement, art galleries, and fashion industries. While graffiti artists are recognized in art galleries, some other artworks are either inspired by fashion designers or used in advertisements for youth and several music videos.

Third, this street art medium is rethinking the inequalities between genders in communities. Indeed, graffiti plays three roles in reducing equality between genders either by being used as a feminist self-expression tool, addressing challenges faced by females, or changing social perception by breaking social barriers. 

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Spray and Spray_ ©Leonardo Augusto

From Outside To Inside

The first location that comes to mind regarding graffiti artwork is the outdoor places. However, some abandoned buildings may hold some of these works on internal partition walls, doors, floors, and ceilings.

Currently, some design studios are established focusing on graffiti works such as “The Boiler House” located in The United Kingdom. As mentioned on their official website, The Boiler House Team worked on projects with global companies such as BBC, MTV, Radisson Blu, and the National Museum of Wales. 

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Graffiti_ ©Fotoliai

Modern graffiti art forms that emerged in the 1960s are facing controversy worldwide. Some consider this art as a way of cultural reflection, whereas others describe it as vandalism for public areas and streets.

The modern approach to graffiti art was led by the famous Cornbread in the United States. This approach expressed worldwide replications making modern graffiti vital components of the urban culture.

Despite all odds, modern graffiti is now widely seen in exhibitions and museums and reflects the main urban cultures as follows: influencing pop culture, promoting gender equality, and a clear image for protest and revolution.

While this modern art is facing problems of existence, it is featured in advertisements, music videos, and street and urban photography.


Rock Bells. (October 28, 2020). The Legend of Cornbread: How He Tagged the Jackson 5 & An Elephant. [Online]. Available at:,city%20walls%20for%20the%20purpose 

See Brilliance. The frightening impact of graffiti on our local communities. [Online]. Available at:,a%20means%20to%20mark%20territories

Martin, M. (February 2, 2023). What Impact Does Graffiti Have on Society? Linkedin. [Online]. Available at:,that%20expresses%20a%20public%20voice

Fast Capital. (April 16, 2024). Graffiti Culture: Breaking Boundaries: The Influence of Graffiti Culture. [Online]. Available at:–Breaking-Boundaries–The-Influence-of-Graffiti-Culture.html#:~:text=Graffiti%20has%20had%20a%20significant%20impact%20on%20pop%20culture%2C%20inspiring,for%20artists%20to%20express%20themselves

The Boiler House. Studio. [Webpage]. Available at: 

List of Images

1_Carlos Antonosri. Whatever. Available at: 

2_Cornbread Graffiti. Available at: 

3_David Bland. Hands. Available: 

4_Leonardo Augusto. Spray and Spray. Available at: 

5_Fotolia. Graffiti. Available at: 



Born and studied Architecture in Lebanon, Mahfoud is using Architecture and Design as a tool to solve social problems in the Lebanese rural areas. He was awarded by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as Innovator of The Year 2023 for his socio-architectural and sustainable project called ARTICKLE.