As my college thesis was on graffiti ("graf"), it has become a rather large part of my life and how I view any city. My mentors were Dan1 and Pose2, and I have to admit that anything on this page is owed greatly to them--they are where it all started for me.
Graf is anything from a "tag" (quick, scrawl-style writing usually done with spray-paint or markers) to a "piece" (short for "masterpiece") which covers the entire side of a building.
In many ways, how much of a problem there is with graffiti there is in a city and how the city deals with it are reflective of 1. how much poverty and social deprivation there is in that city and 2. how much the city wishes to hide its problems.
The idea to remember is that every piece of graf is written by someone, someone who is essentially screaming their name for all the world to hear. Every "tag" is someone reminding you that they cannot be forgotten. Graf is an expression of the community and it is an expression of the individual. Graf is the rediscovery of art by a group of people who have been denied a means of self-expression and self-actualization.
So the next time you ride the train or travel through "the wrong side of town" look about you and start listening to the "voices" which are shouting at you from the walls. I know I do.
Graffiti in the Philadelphia area:
Canvasses in spraypaint and other more mainstream works of art by graffiti artists:
Some graf links:
- To start you out, there's Art Crimes's Graffiti Q&A--a basic introduction to the who's, why's, where's, and how's of graf.
- Art Crimes--the oldest and arguably the most authoritative website on graf.
- Sacramento Graffiti
- @149 St.: New York City Cyber Bench--a tribute to all the old NYC writers' benches where graffers would collect to trade styles and watch the trains.
Last modified November 23, 2001