Street Art Live!

If you've been to one art opening, you've pretty much been to them all: Art connoisseurs marvel over what is being displayed, while repetitive music blares in the background.

However, the opening of Fragment Gallery's new graffiti/street-art show, Post No Bills, will not offer the same old thing. Instead, it will include three talented artists creating two live works of art as upbeat hip-hop music radiates through the entire gallery.

Cody Thompson will create on an 8-foot-by-4-foot canvas, while Donovan White and Ed Muren III will partner up to make their own piece. Mark Matlock, the owner of Fragment Gallery, said he does not know what Thompson has up his creative sleeve, but Muren and White will create a piece representing Independence Day.

"I have had art shows in the past, but this will be the first time when live art will be created in front of an audience," Matlock said. "Muren and White will begin their artwork this week, and will finish it the day of the event. Thompson will start his piece during the art exhibit, and will finish it that day. The artists will also have work they have done in the past hung on display."

Graffiti art has been around since the caveman era, depicting daily activities like the hunting of wildlife. The Egyptians, Romans, Mayans and Vikings produced graffiti art on walls and monuments, too. However, modern graffiti is stigmatized, due to the fact that it is often associated with vandalism and the destruction of property.

"I wanted to host an art show for graffiti art, because not many graffiti artists get the recognition they deserve," Matlock said. "Many of their works are viewed by some people as not a true art form, because they are not hung up in a museum for people to see and appreciate. Top artists who were beginning their careers, like Andy Warhol, were criticized for their art because it was different than others, but it did not take away from their genius."

Artists who do graffiti are typecast as vandals with a spray can, but Matlock views graffiti art as an expression of one's self and beautiful art. Matlock, a tagger during his adolescent years in New York City, decided to host a graffiti/street-art show to allow local artists to show off their work.

"This is the second time I have hosted (a show) that mainly focuses on the art of graffiti. The previous show that we had went very well, with an attendance of around 130 people. It was a solo show for an artist, Mel Dominguez," Matlock said. "She showed around 21 paintings at the show and sold nine of them. ... I would also like to host a show speaking about the history of graffiti later down the road."

Post No Bills is a group show with 18 artists, 10 of them from Tucson. Their work will be for sale, with prices starting around $5. The most expensive pieces will be Rick Porven's Armored Hearts series, a set of paintings that will cost around $2,000.

Matlock said that graffiti artists should be respected for their craft due to the conditions they face while working.

"When I speak about graffiti art, I am not referring to the gang tagging that people can see all over neighborhood walls, street signs and billboards. I am talking about murals that someone took their time to create using vibrant colors, unique lettering and creative images," Matlock said. "I believe that many of the graffiti artists are more skilled than trained artists, because they have to work with poor lighting, worry about police and have a limited time to finish their work. If they are caught tagging, they can be fined."