Graffiti Art

Graffiti Art Videos

Graffiti is a form of art that has been around for centuries. It can range from simple tags to elaborate pieces that cover entire subway cars. Some artists even create “wildstyle” letters, which use a calligraphic writing style.

While incorporating graffiti art into ads and other promotional materials can add excitement to a campaign, companies must be careful that the artwork does not violate copyright laws.

1. Subway Art

In 1984, photographer Martha Cooper and artist Henry Chalfant captured the imagination of a generation with their landmark book Subway Art. The groundbreaking work helped graffiti go global, disseminating its style, slang, and technique worldwide. Now in a new, larger edition, it remains the bible of subway art.

With more than 70 previously unpublished photographs, the new edition of Subway Art demonstrates that time has not diminished its power. A new introduction and afterword by the authors recall how the book came to be, while also exploring its legacy on a world now awash in the language of street art.

Join a Smithsonian expert to learn about the choices Furedi made in depicting a diverse group of passengers on a train car in 1934.

2. Style Wars

The cult classic documentary style wars exposes the rich developing subculture of hip hop that developed in New York City in the late ’70s and early ’80s. While films like Wild Style and Beat Street told the story of hip-hop from the perspective of its pioneers, style wars shows the youth that created it from a different angle. The film follows graffiti writers as they discuss their craft, outrun transit police, and sneak into train yards at night to create their mural masterpieces. The teens that are interviewed are serious about their art and have a clear understanding of why they are doing it.

This is contrasted by adults such as Mayor Ed Koch who are adamant in their opposition to the culture. The film explores the rivalry, originality, and creativity that drove young members of the Rock Steady Crew as they produced their earliest raps and graffiti. It also explores the futility of their work, as trains would get washed and painted over within days.

3. The Art of Graffiti

Graffiti art is a form of expression that can be creative, criminal, or political. It often challenges unwritten social norms and tells a story about the people who live in an area. Unlike historical graffiti, which was carved or painted, modern graffiti artists use aerosol spray paint. They can create their works anywhere, including urban spaces.

Contemporary graffiti originated in Philadelphia and New York City in the mid-1960s. One of the first practitioners was a man named Cornbread, who tagged both the inside and outside of subway stations in New York City. His work helped to spread the practice.

The practice has since grown into a global movement that includes both amateur and professional artists. Some artists, like Banksy and Alec Monopoly, have taken graffiti off the streets and into traditional artistic settings. Their figurative graffiti paintings have been shown in galleries and museums around the world. Others are still creating illegal graffiti, but they have rebranded the style as “street art.” They may also use a variety of media to create their pieces, such as stencils or stickers.

4. Graffiti Art History

In the late 1970s, artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring brought graffiti art into the mainstream. They used it as a tool to shed light on important social issues like the crack epidemic and the AIDS crisis. They also used their work to promote name recognition, often using their own monikers.

Early graffiti writers also used their art to mark territory. One example is the simple message “Kilroy was here” that American soldiers drew on surfaces along their routes during World War II. This graffiti is a precursor to modern memes and demonstrates how street art has always been a form of communication and storytelling.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who started the trend for graffiti art, as pieces don’t last long and are frequently removed or painted over. However, many credit the artist Cornbread for launching the movement. He tagged his nickname and address, which was 183, on everything from handbags to helicopters. He also famously tagged an elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo, which inspired other graffiti artists to tag a variety of objects and settings.

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