Wednesday, January 3, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Pixnit?

Every now and then, I admit, I'm glad I scan the Globe. A case in point is today's story on Pixnit, the art-grad "tagger" who's been working around town for some time, and who is now on the edge of gallery (and perhaps global!) visibility. I'm glad to at last know a bit about Pixnit (whose work I've noticed in the South End), and even if the Globe article was breathless in a Newton-North-reporter kind of way ("she can vanish, almost completely, into the smallest of shadows"), it still raised some interesting issues about this particular artiste.

Of course, Pixnit's hardly your av tagger: she's got an art degree, goddammit, and her stated aim is "to awaken the viewer's senses, emphasize human scale on the street and shift the viewer's perception of public space." (Like so many before her, she's an art school Florence Nightingale.)

The trouble is, Pixnit doesn't actually have the permission of her canvas to raise our consciousness. One particular group - GraffitiNABBers - would, indeed, like to nab her. Intriguingly, Pixnit isn't arguing for the legalization of graffiti - "I'm not an advocate for graffiti being legalized - the illegality is what gives it its bite," she says. In other words, she's well aware that the buzz she generates is enhanced by the threat of jail time; a prison sentence would, in a sense, be a brilliant career move.

But does she need the street cred of a rap sheet? Maybe. Pixnit's stencils are charming and accomplished, and their quaint aura makes for an interesting sense of reverse transgression (she subverts urban chaos with domestic tranquility). On the other hand, the work's not all that energetic or pointed, and a little of it goes a long way (let's hope her stencils don't really become "spores," as she hopes). And it's hard to say what, exactly, aside from her career concerns, is preventing her from working in a temporary medium (like the technically brilliant Sidewalk Sam, whom everyone loves), or simply asking for permission from the owners of the property she targets. "Why are we so afraid of paint on the walls?" she asks, but one might well respond, "Why are you so afraid of cooperating with your community?"

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