The History of Graffiti

Questions for the first section, What is Graffiti?
1. What four ways is graffiti left on property (a surface)? 2. Is graffiti in public or private spaces? 3. In ancient times, what did graffiti refer to? 4. What are the three ways graffiti is seen as by people? 5. What are the three most common materials used to make graffiti?

What is graffiti?
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Graffiti is any type of public markings. Graffiti may be simple written words or wall paintings. Graffiti and graffito are from the Italian word graffiato ("scratched"). Graffiti has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. The term graffiti referred to the inscriptions, figure drawings, etc., found on the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs of Rome or at Pompeii. A related term is "graffito", which involves scratching through one layer of pigment to reveal another beneath it. Potters who would glaze their wares and then scratch a design into it primarily used this technique. In ancient times graffiti was carved on walls with a sharp object, although sometimes chalk or coal were used. In modern times, spray paint, normal paint and markers have become the most commonly used materials. In most countries, defacing property with graffiti without the property owner's consent is considered vandalism, which is punishable by law. Sometimes graffiti is employed to communicate social and political messages. To some, it is an art form worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions; to others it is merely vandalism. Graffiti has evolved into a pop culture existence often related to underground hip hop music and b-boying creating a lifestyle that remains hidden from the general public. The controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement amongst city officials/ law enforcement and graffitists (taggers/graffiti artists) looking to display their work in public locations. There are many different types and styles of graffiti and it is a rapidly developing art form whose value is highly contested, being reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection, sometimes within the same jurisdiction.

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Questions on modern graffiti found in ancient times 1. Where is the first example of modern graffiti found? 2. What three things did ancient graffiti often communicate? 3. What are six types of graffiti found in Pompeii? 4. In your opinion, what is contemporary/modern graffiti s purpose(s)? How is this different from how graffiti is used/perceived in ancient times?

Modern-style graffiti found in ancient times
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ The first known example of "modern style" graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of which also survive in Egypt. Graffiti in the classical world had different connotations than it carries in today's society concerning content. Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought compared to today's popular messages of social and political ideals. The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti in Pompeii, including: Latin curses, magic spells, declarations of love, alphabets, political slogans and famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient Roman street life. Disappointed love also found its way onto walls in antiquity: Whoever loves, go to hell. I want to break Venus's ribs with a club and deform her hips. If she can break my tender heart why can't I hit her over the head? -CIL IV, 1284. The gladiatorial academy at CIL IV, 4397 was scrawled with graffiti left by the gladiator Celadus Crescens: Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex: "Celadus the Thracian makes the girls sigh." Another piece from Pompeii, written on a tavern wall about the owner of the establishment and his questionable wine: Landlord, may your lies malign Bring destruction on your head! You yourself drink unmixed wine, Water sell your guests instead. Early forms of graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past cultures.

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Questions on the Recent origins of modern graffiti:
1. When did the first traces of modern graffiti appear? 2. When was the pioneering era of graffiti? 3. New York City became the central location for graffiti tagging activity. Why do you think this happened? What qualities did New York city have, such as it s location, history, culture, etc. have that may have caused this change? 4. What do the numbers in Taki183, Julio 204, etc. tags represent? 5. What was the goal of most graffiti artists? 6. What is a top-to-bottom ?

Recent origins of modern graffiti
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Early modernist graffiti can be dated back to box cars in the early 1920 s, yet the graffiti movement seen in today's contemporary world really originated through the minds of political activists and gang members of the 1960s. The "pioneering era" of graffiti took place during the years 1969 through 1974. This time period was a time of change in popularity and style. New York City became the new hub (formally Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) of graffiti tags and images. Soon after the migration from Philadelphia to NYC, the city produced one of the first graffiti artists to gain media attention in New York, TAKI 183. TAKI 183 was a youth from Washington Heights, Manhattan who worked as a foot messenger. His tag is a mixture of his name Demetrius (Demetraki), TAKI, and his street number, 183rd. Being a foot messenger, he was constantly on the subway and began to put up his tags along his travels. Julio 204 is also credited as an early writer, though not recognized at the time outside of the graffiti subculture. Other notable names from that time are: PHASE 2, Stitch 1, Joe 182, Junior 161 and Cay 161. Barbara 62 and Eva 62 were also important early graffiti artists in New York, and are the first women to become known for writing graffiti. Also taking place during this era was the movement from outside on the city streets to the subways. Graffiti also saw its first seeds of competition around this time. The goal of most artists at this point was "getting up": having as many tags and bombs in as many places as possible. Artists began to break into subway yards in order to hit as many trains as they could with a lower risk, often creating larger elaborate pieces of art along the subway car sides. Covering an entire subway car with graffiti was called bombing . This is when the act of bombing was said to be officially established. By 1971 tags began to take on their signature calligraphic appearance because, due to the huge number of artists, each graffiti artist needed a way to distinguish themselves. Aside from the growing complexity and creativity, tags also began to grow in size and scale for example, many artists had begun to increase letter size and line thickness, as well as outlining their tags. This gave birth to the so-called 'masterpiece' or 'piece' in 1972. "Top-to-bottoms", works which span the entire height of a subway car, made their first appearance around this time as well.

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Questions for: Graffiti in the mid1970 s
1. What is bombing in relation to graffiti (refer to the previous section if you don t remember) ? 2. Why did bombing flourish at this time in NYC? 3. What did it mean for a graffiti artists to go all-city in NYC? 4. What two styles of graffiti merged in the late 70 s to form Wild Style?

Graffiti in the mid 1970s
‡ By the mid 1970s time, most standards had been set in graffiti writing and culture. The heaviest "bombing" in U.S. history took place in this period, partially because of the lack of money in New York City, which limited its ability to combat this art form with graffiti removal programs or transit maintenance. Graffiti writing was becoming very competitive and artists strove to go "all-city," or to have their names seen in all five boroughs of NYC. Eventually, the standards, which had been set in the early 70s, began to become stagnant. These changes in attitude led many artists into the 1980s with a desire to expand and change. The late 1970s and early 1980s brought a new wave of creativity to the scene. As the influence of graffiti grew beyond the Bronx, a graffiti movement began with the encouragement of Friendly Freddie. Fab 5 Freddy (Fred Brathwaite) is another popular graffiti figure of this time, who started in a Brooklyn "wallwriting group. Fab 5 Freddy notes how differences in spray technique and letters between Upper Manhattan and Brooklyn began to merge in the late 70s, out of which came the 'Wild Style . Fab 5 Freddy is often credited with helping to spread the influence of graffiti and rap music beyond its early foundations in the Bronx, and making links the downtown art and music scenes. It was around this time that the established art world started becoming receptive to the graffiti culture for the first time since Hugo Martinez's Razor Gallery in the early 1970s. The MTA (Metro Transit Authority) began to repair yard fences, and remove graffiti consistently, battling the surge of graffiti artists. With the MTA combating the artists by removing their work it often led many artists to quit in frustration, as their work was constantly being removed.

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Next:
‡ When I return on Thursday we will have a quiz covering the material in the questions. ‡ On Monday April 12 and Tuesday April 13th we will watch Style Wars, documentary on graffiti artists in New York City in the 1970 s. It is awesome! See you soon! Ms. Kee