Post-Impressionism, Postmodernism, Post-Internet, the art market is oversaturated with value laden words that suggest art “after” something marks paradigmatic shifts in the way artists make, and the way that we make sense of work as a whole. Aside from its problematic, unidirectional approach to history (that excludes and others non-Eurocentric narratives) the prefix does have useful applications when handled with care, and one of those ways is when applied to the term “vandalism”.
While it might not be the most touted of art terms (and we’d like to keep it that way), it carries two different meanings: one practical, the other theoretical. On the practical level, Post-Vandalism differentiates works on the street from works on canvas, screen prints, or even public commissioned works and generally speaks to how established a graffiti artist has become. It is quite literally “after an artist has made enough of a name for themselves that collectors want to buy their work in sanctioned and resealable formats.” It can also be used to refer to artists that have taken influence from street art, urban reclamation and destruction, like Jose Parla or Keke Vilabelda.
On the theoretical level, it speaks to the power of destructive activities, claiming that the need to express something is the primary motivator behind destructive art practices and social behaviours. Academics like Adam Jastrzębski and artists like Maurcycy Gomulicki have been pioneering the term, advocating for this framework as a productive way to interpret “urban art”. It’s a relatively niche term that has more traction in Eastern Europe than other parts of the world, but it does offer a powerful contrast to the playful or political commentary that shrouds contemporary graffiti art.
Functionally, they mean very different things, and are very different kinds of investment. So when you hear someone use the term Post-Vandalism to refer to a work, you’re best to follow up and figure out just what they mean.