Graffiti – urban artform

Love it or hate it, graffiti is a part of the urban landscape. I’m a fan of graffiti, but not a fan of random tagging.

I love the colour and style of big graffiti pieces, but I don’t personally see the value of random tags. However, I am learning that these seemingly random scribbles are often a precursor to graffiti artists learning their trade and building into bigger and stylier works.

I recently watched Style Wars, which documents the early years of graffiti in New York. It’s a fascinating look at the birthplace of urban graffiti, and outlines the overlap between graffiti, hip-hop and breakdancing as outlets for visual, spoken and physical expression for urban dwellers. It is an intriguing look into the community of graffiti artists, who talk about why they ‘write’ (usually just words) and why they ‘bomb’ (typically more substantial, pictorial works).

The library has copies of the 25th anniversary edition of Subway Art, in which photographers Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant document the diverse work of graffiti writers who (illegally) painted subway cars throughout New York City. The larger style of this new edition showcases the work in fantastic form.

For a New Zealand perspective, check out Elliot O’Donnell’s book InForm, where New Zealand graffiti artists talk about their work, their style and their influences.

Jonny Wartman is a director for the only professional graf company in New Zealand. He’s originally from Christchurch and was interviewed for The Pulse.

Graffiti is everywhere, whether you love it or hate it. To whet your appetite to find out a little more, here’s a selection of covers to give you a taste – the books on non-English language graffiti art, for example, graffiti paris and RackGaki, were really interesting to get a different cultural perspective of graffiti.


12 thoughts on “Graffiti – urban artform

  1. Tulip 24 September 2009 / 7:50 pm

    i’m a big fan of tagging. i’ve got a tag on my fence which I have waited 3 years for. it took 3 years to tag my wooden fence on Fitzy Ave! A-mazing but well worth the wait.

    • mj 25 September 2009 / 4:50 pm

      Three years waiting … you weren’t tempted to sneak out one night and do it yourself?

  2. richard 25 September 2009 / 12:01 pm

    I like graf art, but tagging just doesn’t appeal. Neither annoys me as much as etching though. My favourite is light graffiti – cool, arty, no damage to property.

    • mj 25 September 2009 / 4:52 pm

      Thanks Richard, that is well cool graffiti. Might have to try that one out >-) I figure that Len Lye might have been keen on this kind of graf art.

  3. Mojo Jojo 25 September 2009 / 2:53 pm

    I’m a big fan of well-crafted graffiti art, particularly stenciling like Banksy’s. However, given that I live in an area plagued by tagging (and therefore have to spend far to much time cleaning up tags), I’d rather taggers “precursed” in their own back yards, thanks.

    • mj 25 September 2009 / 4:56 pm

      Stencilling appears to play an important part in French graffiti, so check out the book graffiti paris

    • sweet pea 5 October 2009 / 10:17 am

      this is very cool. I love that we are recording the great art work – I esp. love the stencils.

    • mj 5 October 2009 / 10:17 am

      thanks terry. thanks for the link to the very cool site 😉

  4. Street Art Christchurch 27 December 2009 / 4:13 pm

    Some more films (both available on DVD):
    1)”Beautiful Losers”(2008): a documentary following the lives and careers of a collective group of “Do-it-yourself” artists (including many graffiti artists) who inadvertently affected the art world.
    2) Bomb the System (2002)drama set in New York focused on graffiti.

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