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TheHistoryofAmericanGraffitiandStreetArt

Streetartandgraffitiareallovercitiestoday.Somemayseeitasadifferentformofartwhile
othersseeitasacrime.Whetheronemaythinkstreetartisvandalismorbeautifulartwork,the
culturetodayisheavilyimpactedbystreetart.Insomecitiesitismoreprevalentthaninothers.
Thisresearchpaperwillhighlightthehistory,culturalinfluences,anddifferenttypesandstyles
ofgraffitiandstreetart.Alsothisresearchpaperwillhighlightthedifferentlawsandreasons
whyandhowstreetartwouldbevandalism.
GraffiticomesfromtheItalianwordgraffito.Thedefinitionofgraffitoisdrawing
symbols,images,andwordsonprivateorpublicsurfaceswithoutpermission.Graffitiin
Americastartedinthelate1960sandearly70s.Themaincitiesstreetartstartedinwas
PhilidelphiaandNewyork.EventuallyitmadeitswaytoLosAngeles.Graffitistartedoffto
makePoliticalstatementsandwouldalsobeusedtomarkstreetgangterritory.Thefour
motivatingfactorsonemaydograffitiistoachievemorefame,rebellion,power,andself
expression.
ThefirstwidelyknowngraffitiartistisCornbreadalsoknownasDarrylMcCray..
Cornbreadwasahighschoolstudentwhostartedtagginghisnameinthe1967togettheattention

ofagirl.CornbreadlivedinPhiladelphiawithCoolEarl.CoolEarlwasanotherveryprominent
graffitiartist.CoolEarlandCornbreadtaggedtheirnamesalloverthecityofPhiladelphia.
WhenthegraffitimovementmadeitswaytoNewYorkTaki183wasoneofthenamesseen
throughoutNewYork.TakisrealnamewasDemetriusandlivedon183rdstreet.Takiwould
taghisnameallthroughoutNewYorkashewasathisjobasamessenger.
AnotherwaygraffitimadeitswayacrosstheUnitedStatesofAmericain1973isby
railroad.Aswellasalltheothergraffitiartistinothercities,artistsintheareasoutsideofcities
wantedfamejustasmuch.Artistsinsmallercitiesormoreruralareasbegantocreatetheir
artworkontraincars.Theartistsdidthistospreadtheirartacrossmoreplacesandtobemore
recognized.ThistrendstartedtopickupmoreinthebiggercitiessuchasL.A.,NewYork,and
Philadelphiainthecitytransitsystems.
In1975,NewYorkwashavingafinancialcrisisandthecitywasbroke.The
financialcrisiseventuallyleadtothepublictransitsystembecomingbadlymaintained.When
thishappenedthatwasthenewspotforgraffitiartists.Withallthegraffitiartistscomingtothe
subwaysthemorebombingstartedtobecomeanissue.Graffitiartistswouldoftenbevery
competitiveinmorepopularareas.Totrytoachievemorefametheywouldtrytomaketheir
piecethemostbigandbright.Bombingwaswhenangraffitiartistwouldhitanotherspiece.
Bybombingorhittingone'spieceanothergraffitiartistwouldmaketheirpicturethemore
beautifulandthemorebiggerpiece.Todothisinalesseramountoftimeartistswouldusetheir
tagratherthancreatingacomplexpiece.
Taggingisaveryprominentpartofgraffiti.Majorityoftaggersaremalesages1221
andfemalesages1620.Graffitiartistsalwayshavenicknamessotheycanbeanonymous.

Everyartistwantstohaveauniquetagtogainfameandtoberecognized.Manytaggerswould
adddesignsandsymbolstothenamesuchasstarsorcrowns.Tokeepupwithcompetitionand
theneedtogainmorefameandrecognitionartistsstartedtocreateaalternativeandmore
efficientwaytotag.Graffitiartistsstartedtomakestencils,stickers,andrubberstamps.Theydid
thissotheycanhavetheirtagseenmoreinavarietyofareasandnotconsumetoomuchtime
doingso.Otherswerespeculativeofthisideawonderingifthisdefiedthetruereasoningone
createdgraffiti.
Thesymbolsanddesignseitherwastoenhancethelookofthetagorsomeadded
symbolsanddesignswithmeaning.Artiststhataddcrownstotheirtagproclaimed
themselvesasKings.Kingsaretheartiststhathavethemostvisible,themostbright
andbeautiful,andthebiggestpiecesofallothers.Notalldesignsandsymbolshadto
havemeaning.Alsodifferentgangswouldembellishtheirtagswithcertainsymbolsto
representtheirsetinacreativeway.
Graffitialsohassomecommonlyusedslangwordsandphrases.Avery
commonlyusedwordisAngel.Whenoneusesanangeltheyareusuallyreferringtoa
formergraffitiartiststhathavepassed.Onemayincorporatethisbyaddingahaloover
thename,drawingwingsonamuraltributedtotheformerartists,ortaggingthedate.
Anothertermismarriedcouple.Marriedcoupleisaoldtermthatwasusedinthe
subway.ThistermoriginatedinNewYorkCity.MarriedCouplemeanstwosubwaycars
thatarepaintedsidebysidewithonesinglepaintingacrossbothcars.BacktoBackis
onemorecommonlyusedterm.BacktoBackiswhengraffitiispaintedfromendtoend
onawall.Whenthishappensontrainsitiscalledendtoendorshortenedtoe2e.An

oldertermthatwasusedbeforee2ewaswindowdowns.HeavenSpotisatermusedto
describespotsthatwereveryhardtoreachandwereconsideredthedaredevilsspots.
Thesespotswererooftops,overthefreeway,orovertopbridges.Artistswouldtryto
workinthespotsbecausethedifficulttoreachareasmeansitisalsodifficulttoreachto
remove.Inthesespotsthepieceisusuallyseenmoreandleftuplongerresultinginmore
famefortheartist.HeavenSpotalsohasadoublemeaning.Theotherperceptionofthe
termisthelocationsfortheheavenspotareriskyandmayresultinadeathoraccidentof
anartistsendingthemtoheaven.
Designsandletteringarewhereanartistcanreallyshowtheircreativity.Designsare
whatanartistcreatestoimprovetheirtag,butinmorecomplexpiecesdesigniswhatanartist
woulddecoratetheletteringofthepiecewith.Somedesignssomemayusearepolkadots,
stripes,stars,crosshatching,andcheckerboard.Graffitiartistsstartedtocreatethickerlettering
andoutlinesandincorporateavarietyofcolors.Capsfromdifferentaerosolproductsgave
differentoptionsinthelinethickness.Theletteringiswheretheartistcanreallyshowoffone's
creativeability.Someofthedifferenttypesofletteringisblockletters,panelpieces,leaning
letters,andwindowedletters.Ifaartistchoosestouseamorecomplicatedstyleoffontforones
pieceitcanmakethepiececompletelyunreadabletotheaverageeye.Thistypeofstyleiscalled
wildstyle.
Therearetwomajordifferentstylesofletteringingraffiti.Thisissimpleletteringand
wildstylelettering.Simpleletteringiswhenthewordisinbubbleletteringorstraightlettering.
Wildstyleletteringisletteringinvolvingcomplexlines,interlockingletterswitharrows,linkups,
andothercomplexdesignsWildstyleletteringisveryhardtoreadunlesstheartistisrecognized

oronehaslearnedhowtoreadthewildstylelettering.Artistscanperfectthistechniqueby
keepingtheletterintactevenwhengoingofftodothecomplicatedintricatedesigns.
Ablackbookoralsoknownasapiecebookisagraffitiartist'ssketchbook
todrawoutthecomplexpiecesorpracticeperfectingtheirtag.Graffitiartists
sketchbookswereverygoodevidenceforpolicewhentryingtocatchthemost
knownartists.GraffitiisthemostcommonvandalismintheUnitedStatesof
America.LosAngeles,Californiaspent$55millionongraffitiremovalin2003.
Mostlawsaboutgraffitiandstreetartaremostofthetimedependingonthelocal
lawofthetownorcityonemaylivein.Although,thereisfederallawsbanning
railroadvandalsandhavetrespassinglaws.Therearegraffitipreventionteamsin
citiesallover.Somereasonsonemaywanttopreventgraffitiissomemaythink
graffitisetsbackthebeautyofacityorneighborhood.
InAshevilleNorthCarolinaonecangetuptothreeyearswithastatebillthatcanattach
felonycharges.Thebillstatesthatapersonwithtwoormorepriorgraffiticonvictions,
orfiveormorevandalismmisdemeanorcharges,withina60dayperiodcouldbe
chargedwithaclassHfelony.Dependingonone'spreviousrecordagraffitiartistcould
haveupto39monthsinprisonorasignificantcommunityservice.Peoplethathave
lessvandalismchargeswouldhaveaclass1misdemeanorwithapunishmentofa$500
fineand24hoursofcommunityservicehours.Manystoreownersthathavetodeal
withvandalismfeelasifthetaggersgetoffeasilywhenthestoreownersfeelthatthey
shouldbepunished.

InourcityofAsheville,thereistheRiverArtsDistrict.TheRiverArts
Districthasmanyoldabandonedconcretebuildings.Itisplaygroundforgraffiti
artists.Therulesarethatyouhavetogetapermittopaintapieceatoneofthe
locationsdesignatedforgraffitimurals.