So, What Does Graffiti Even Really Mean?
Graffiti is originally a reference to ancient inscriptions. They could be words or drawings found on the walls of ancient sepulchers, public buildings, or ruins. At the ruins of Pompeii or in the Catacombs of Rome, you can see ancient graffiti.
“Graffiti” refers to a visual art form applied to a surface. The term graffiti has long been associated with vandalism.
writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. (i.e., “the walls were covered with graffiti.”)
What is Graffiti?
You’ve walked by it a hundred times, if not thousands of times. At times, it annoys you, at times you admire its artist, and at other times you just glance at it and keep walking. Graffiti is a part of our everyday visual experience, no matter how you feel about it. From the tiny tags of a teenage experiment to the detailed protest art of a master, graffiti has an important place in culture.
The art of graffiti involves the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group. Graffiti is usually illegal. Graffiti is often viewed as a symbol or phrase spray-painted on a wall by someone associated with a street gang, but some graffiti is not gang-related. Graffiti can be considered an antisocial act or a form of thrill-seeking. But it can also be seen as an artistic expression.
The term graffiti (“incised inscriptions,” plural but often used as singular) comes from the Italian word graffito (“scratch”). Markings have been found in ancient Roman ruins, in the Mayan city of Tikal in Central America, on rocks in Spain dating to the 16th century, and in medieval English churches.
Graffiti was closely associated with gangs in the United States and Europe during the 20th century, who used it for many functions:
- Identifying or claiming territory
- Honoring deceased gang members in an informal “obituary.”
- Boasting about acts (e.g., crimes) committed by gang members
- Challenging rival gangs as a prelude to violence
There was a significant amount of graffiti in major urban hubs worldwide, especially in the United States and Europe; subways, billboards, and walls were common targets. The 1990s saw the rise of a brand-new style of graffiti called “tagging,” in which single symbols or series of characters were used repeatedly to mark territory. Graffiti like this is usually found in strategically or centrally located neighborhoods and can attract the most attention.
Public art is often considered a form of graffiti; for example, the murals commissioned during the U.S. Federal Art Project during the Great Depression and the work of Diego Rivera in Mexico.
Graffiti and murals can complement each other, reach out to a community’s interests, and beautify a neighborhood. Graffiti in many Hispanic neighborhoods in the United States, for instance, is quite elaborate, and many consider it to be a form of urban art. There has been much debate about whether such work is an innovative art form or a public nuisance.
Graffiti was notoriously prevalent in New York City in the late 20th century.
The urban landscape of the 1970s became defined by elaborate multicolored graffiti on subway cars and building walls. The art world’s fascination stimulated this form of self-expression with artists who operated outside traditional gallery channels. In the 1980s, New York artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat became famous for their graffiti. Their recognition led to successful careers as painters represented by top galleries.
Graffiti is considered vandalism in most jurisdictions, and in some countries, it is punished severely. In Singapore, violators are caned. In the 1980s and ’90s, many jurisdictions looked for ways to eradicate and remove graffiti, fearing that it would otherwise degrade the community. Significant resources were allocated to graffiti reduction and other clean-up efforts. Cities have even introduced mural programs or “free walls” to encourage urban youths to express their creativity.
Is Graffiti Considered To Be Art?
Graffiti, once considered vandalism, is now more widely recognized as a form of art. Still, it is not always viewed positively or universally accepted as art by the general public.
Graffiti vs. Street-Art
Graffiti Art takes Street Graffiti’s techniques and methodologies and applies them to other mediums. Graffiti is an art form as well. Graffiti Art is distinguished from Graffiti when Graffiti leaves city surfaces and moves to a more traditional art surface, like a canvas. Graffiti Art allows graffiti to be exhibited, sold, and displayed in other environments.
Graffiti is still primarily an urban and public art form. Recently, graffiti artists such as Banksy and Alec Monopoly, the artist behind Richie Rich’s paintings, have been commercially exhibiting their graffiti-style paintings in galleries and museums.
How Graff Started: Reading The Hieroglyphics
The earliest graffiti dates back to the cavemen. The first drawings on walls are known as graffiti; the cave paintings at Lascaux date back tens of thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Romans also wrote their names and protested poems on public buildings, just as modern taggers, ” sometimes called “writers,” do.
During World War II, American soldiers painted the message “Kilroy was here.” with a sketch of a man peeking over a ledge.
Soldiers would draw on surfaces along their route as a form of camaraderie with their followers. Both British and Australian soldiers adopted this practice. The soldiers were unaware that this was a war-era meme and a precursor to modern graffiti and meme culture.
Graffiti has existed in several forms throughout history, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became a widely visible and well-known phenomenon. Graffiti evolved from the modern and widely recognized art form in the 1960s. Graffiti in this contemporary form is commonly referred to as hip-hop graffiti.
In urban America during the mid-20th century, hip-hop graffiti began in Philadelphia and New York. Spray cans became the affordable, transportable medium of choice for modern graffiti after aerosol spray paint was invented in 1949 in Sycamore, Illinois.
In the past, graffiti was usually carved or painted, but it is generally spray-painted today. Graffiti Art is predominantly created using spray paint.
The purpose of graffiti has always been to make an artist’s message or name visible, which is why it is created in public places. Graffiti artists of the late 20th century usually lacked access to more traditional means or platforms of expression to promote their work. The culture of graffiti and tagging revolves around leaving a mark in the community so that other artists and taggers can see it.
Who was the first to do Graffiti Art?
Graffiti Art cannot be traced to a single artist with certainty. Graffiti doesn’t usually last long, so it isn’t easy to trace its origins. Graffiti artists typically remain anonymous, and art is often tagged over or painted over by other artists or by the city or the building owner.
Graffiti is often credited to Cornbread, and he is often referenced as being its creator. Cornbread, whose real name is Darryl McCray, is widely regarded as the first artist of the modern Graffiti movement. Cornbread was just a 12-year-old kid when he began writing his nickname on every surface he could find in 1965.
Nevertheless, Cornbread sparked a trend that quickly spread and grew in popularity. Among Cornbread’s most famous works was an elephant’s infamous tagging in the Philadelphia Zoo.
Cornbread painted “Cornbread Lives” on both sides of a live elephant in response to false claims that he had died. Today, graffiti artists like Alec Monopoly mark a wider range of objects than Cornbread.
Alec Monopoly and Banksy were two of the first artists to take graffiti off the streets and place it in another artistic medium or setting. In some cases, settings are traditional, like a canvas, but they are shocking and innovative at other times, such as helicopters, cars, handbags, escalators, and many other places.
Where Graffiti First Blew Up
Graffiti thrived in major American cities, particularly in black and Latino neighborhoods, and was popular with hip-hop street subcultures.
Historians generally point to either Philadelphia or New York as the birthplace of modern graffiti. The epicenter of Graffiti culture, however, quickly became New York. Graffiti tags on New York subway trains were so prevalent in the 1970s that you could barely see through the subway car windows.
Graffiti is now widespread, with lively graffiti scenes in Berlin, Mexico City, Lisbon, Melbourne, New Delhi, London, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and other major cities.
WORD ON THE STREET: FREQUENT QUESTIONS
What Is a “Tag”?
The original, most common, and most basic Graffiti style you see every day is a graffiti tag. Artists, commonly known in the graff world as Writers, usually use pseudonyms as tags, but in essence, a tag is their “signature.”
Spray paint is used to create tags, which use the artist’s identifying name or symbol. Tags with increased artistic sophistication are called Throw Ups, Bombs, Pieces, or Blockbusters. Nonetheless, the artist’s moniker or tag is almost always incorporated into the design. Graffiti differs from other forms of street art by applying variations of the same tag or design.
What Type of Art Is “Graffiti”?
Graffiti art is a radical form of contemporary art. Artists in graffiti have been influenced by a variety of Modern art movements, such as Pop Art, Abstract Expressionists, and Surrealism, that preceded it. While graffiti originated in modern art, it is predominantly created by contemporary artists today.
Is There A Purpose To Graffiti?
A graffiti artist aims to be seen without being caught and spread a message that can influence the masses. Like other art forms, graffiti usually tells a story or relays an emotion.
Artists can express themselves freely through graffiti, even if it is not publicly acceptable. Graffiti can also be used to mark territories and is a part of gang culture.
Graffiti can be criminal, political, humorous, or even aesthetically pleasing, depending on the context. The act of graffiti challenges societal norms and laws, and it is not intended to be legal. Graffiti is a culture of thrills and risks.
No matter where you are in life, whether you’re traveling abroad, moving to a new neighborhood, or visiting friends in the city, you’re bound to see graffiti.
Some people do graffiti because they feel that their lives are boring without it. They need, no, they crave that rush of adrenaline in their daily lives. Spray painting public walls out in the open with the chances that any second they could get caught by the cops is a rush that makes their hearts beat a thousand miles a minute.
Another reason why people do graffiti is that they’re marking their territory. Usually, gangs or groups do this to warn other gangs or groups to stay out of the area. The last common reason is that graffiti is an outlet for many people’s artistic skills.
Buildings and exposed walls provide an open canvas where graffiti can be spray-painted. Blasting your masterpiece onto a public wall and having tons of people see it every day can be exciting. These are just a few of the many reasons people do graffiti.
What’s the point of graffiti, you ask?
I don’t think there is one clear answer to this. Graffiti has many purposes. It can be to tell a story. It can be to tell about a specific time in history where things turned out badly or positively; it can be to talk about people, politics, culture, art, places, and society in general; it can be to communicate anonymously; it can also be an act of vandalism. Graffiti is a spontaneous act.
Although some acts of graffiti are planned, more often than not, graffiti is spontaneous. If you see graffiti painted on the walls of bathroom stalls or the side of rundown buildings, it is often just an act of vandalism.
Graffiti can also have completely different purposes. In the end, there is no specific point to why people should graffiti their surroundings. However, on school property, it’s vandalism.
What Does Graffiti Truly Represent?
Graffiti is often a way to express rebellion, so it is often the language of the unheard or disenfranchised. A city’s graffiti can tell you a lot about its people, politics, subcultures, counter-cultures, and socioeconomics.
Is Graffiti Considered A Good or Bad Thing?
Graffiti, once regarded as vandalism, is now more commonly appreciated. However, art is always subjective, and some people may never accept graffiti as an art form.
Graffiti can be technically proficient artwork. Creating graffiti takes a high skill level, and some artists are exceptionally talented. There are many Graffiti and street artists whose artwork clearly shows an immense level of technical painting or artistic ability.
Not everyone thinks Graffiti art is good, but acceptance and appreciation are not the purposes of these artworks. Graffiti is a rebellious counter-culture statement that is created for self-expression, often by disenfranchised individuals. Graffiti art is usually made for other Graffiti artists in the community and does not normally seek public acceptance.
Where in the World is Graffiti The Most Popular?
Graffiti and street art have gotten popular all over the globe. There are more and more destinations where you can see street art because authorities don’t actively remove graffiti.
These are the top ten destinations where graffiti is the most popular, and tourists can see world-famous graffiti:
- New York City is the birthplace of the Graffiti movement, and there are many places throughout the city where you can see outstanding works of art. These include Bushwick in Brooklyn, Hunts Point in the Bronx, Chelsea in Manhattan, and the Graffiti Hall of Fame in Harlem.
- Bristol, UK: This English town is home to Banksy, one of the most famous street and graffiti artists in the world today. The city has embraced its Graffiti scene and now hosts the See No Evil Festival, one of the world’s largest street art festivals.
- In Stockholm, Sweden, a Metro Station has so much graffiti it has been nicknamed “the world’s longest art gallery.” Much of the artwork was commissioned, not produced illegally.
- Germany’s Berlin has a long and well-established history of public art. Some of these public legal works reflect the city’s history, such as the Berlin Wall. There is also a strong illegal Graffiti scene that speaks to Berlin’s revitalization.
- São Paulo, Brazil: São Paulo has embraced public artworks and graffiti. Many of the world’s most famous graffiti and street artists, such as Eduardo Kobra, come from São Paulo.
- London, UK: London’s Brick Lane, The Village Underground, and the surrounding neighborhood of Shoreditch are home to many of the world’s famous Graffiti works. Look out for the works by Banksy, ROA, Reka, and MadC.
- The French city of Paris has a vibrant urban scene with strong political roots. Graffiti found on the streets of Paris contains some sharp political criticism and a sense of rebellion. Invader, Kraken, Miss.Tic and the mysterious John Hamon are among the artists you should look for.
- The city of Los Angeles has a strong hip-hop culture, so it should come as no surprise that graffiti is also prevalent throughout the city. The Arts District, La Brea Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, and the Venice Beach Art Walls are just a few places in Los Angeles where you can find outstanding street art. And, of course, we can never forget the now extinct Belmont Art Tunnels.
- In Melbourne, graffiti is a big thing, and Hosier Lane has attracted much attention for its graffiti and street art.
- Mexico City, Mexico: Modern Mexican art is renowned for its murals, so it’s not surprising that the Mexican capital offers a wide variety of street art styles and religious and political graffiti. Must see neighborhoods include Avenida Reforma, The Museo del Juguete Antiguo México and Plaza Luis Cabrera.