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.