Graffiti: Etymology: Italian, plural of graffito [scribbling; graffito, a scratch]: usually unauthorized writing or drawing on a public surface. (source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Graffiti, once synonymous with vandalism, reached an art form several decades ago. It was way back in 1972 that Hugo Martinez founded the UGA- United Graffiti Artists. It didn’t take long to permeate the skater and surfer scene, where it lay for a long time. But in recent years it’s crept from edgy to mainstream.
above: Graffiti by tagger ‘sweet uno’
As an art form, Graffiti has reached such a level of status that it is frequently referred to as ‘street art’ or ‘urban art’ as opposed to vandalism, tagging and graffiti. And many artists have traded in walls for canvases. Even selling prints and gicleés on ebay and in surf and skateboard shops. Right now, street artist Banksy is setting the art world afire fetching prices on par with paintings by Renaissance masters.
Above: Artist José Parla at work.
Above: Banksy’s Tesco Flag
Above: Banksy’s Flower Chucker on canvas.
The combination of street graffiti and luxury was a huge hit when Marc Jacobs thought to combine Stephen Sprouse graffiti with Louis Vuitton bags in 2001. The collection sold like hotcakes and is still in great demand today.
Several designers have taken the urban art form and made into actual furniture. Industrial designer and former tagger, Luis Alicandu from Caracas, Venezuela, now living in London, has designed and created the following pieces. Unfortunately they are not mass produced and are not available for purchase.
To learn more about Luis Alicandu a.k.a. CacoUno (his Graffiti tag nickname), or to help him produce these great pieces, go here.
Another furniture line inspired by graffiti is one from the design duo Jimmie and Martin of Jimmie Martin Ltd. By adding graffiti and unusual paint finishes to traditional furniture, they’ve created a unique niche for the aesthetically trendy. I will be doing a major post on Jimmie Martin in the near future so you can see all of their great work.
Here are some pieces from their Graffiti series:
Jimmie Martin Ltd
Verona and Romeo and Juliet have been inspired by Anna James’s visits to Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy. She is totally captivated by the graffiti covering the walls at the archway entrance, all of it being declarations of love by visiting lovers, of all ages, from all over the world. The colours, and the messages create completely unique images.
Anna devised a process to replicate the walls on furniture, by taking a series of digital images, which she then transposed onto her carefully prepared period pieces. Because messages are constantly being added to the walls, Anna’s design for her Verona furniture is unique to a particular moment in time, and gives each piece it’s own individual artwork and identity.
Angel Ortiz was a New York street artist whose collaboration with other well-known 1980s artist such as Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, brought him recognition. The pieces below were assembled with a venturesome commitment to emerging artists. L.A. II. In 2006, these great looking pieces by tagger Angel Ortiz were sold at an art auction:
Above: Angel Ortiz, L.A. II, Birch armoire with two doors and three drawers decorated with graffiti designs in black and silver marker. Signed and tagged throughout. 72″ x 32″ x 17″ Sold for $3,000.00
Above: Angel Ortiz, L.A. II, Birch plywood six-drawer dresser decorated with graffiti designs in black and silver marker. Signed and tagged throughout. 30″ x 48″ x 16 1/2″ Sold for $2,640.00
Above: Angel Ortiz, L.A. II, Glass vase decorated with silver paint pen. Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from the artist. Signed and tagged throughout. 13 3/4″ x 12″, sold for $600.00
Is Graffiti the next plaid?
Now it’s not only left the walls and subway trains to jump to canvases and rebel galleries, but graffiti has found it’s way onto everything from apparel to housewares. There are graffiti lamps, belts, pillows, bath towels, jewelry, and much, much more. In several instances it’s even offered as a pattern choice. Solids, stripes or graffiti?
Even athletic shoe company, New Balance, had just released Graffiti kicks in two color variations, joining Converse who already offers a Graffiti hi-top. And street artists, Stash and Sket One are designing custom area rugs.
More than one company has produced dinnerware in graffiti styles and now, with Furniture Graphics, you can have a graffiti sideboard to store it in.
Above: Cabinets by brothers Niclas Collen and Jesper Zacco of Furniture Graphics.
25-year-old, Toronto-based graffitist Matthieu Missiaen even makes custom ‘graffiti’ shoes under the label Ndeur:
You can buy Ndeur’s custom fabulous shoes here on etsy
There are so many more items on the market and below are some examples. Just click on each image to be taken to a place for more information and a link to purchase.
There are graffiti coloring books, how to books, typefaces or fonts, wall stickers, the Graffiti Creator, an online graffiti text generator, laptop skins, even Dell computer collaborated with artist Mike Ming to design 2 limited edition laptops.
Dell is not the only large company to collaborate with street and graffiti artists to sell products. Adidas had a great project named End 2 End where they hired 7 street artists to decorate shoes.
See the End 2 End sneaks here.
Coming soon from Boost Mobile is a collaboration with artists MINT and SERF (from the East Coast) and MAINFRAME (from the West Coast) to produce the desktop speakers seen below.
You can pre-order the speakers here.
Beverage Company AriZona has release a graffiti-themed energy drink named All City NRG in appropriately graffiti-decorated cans:
Originating in Brooklyn, AriZona pays tribute to all cities with a colorful energy drink featured in 3 limited edition subway series cans. This bold NON-CARBONATED drink combines pomegranate flavor, green tea and a high energy performance blend. Buy it here.
Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar of NY makes Graffiti chocolate bars, each decorated by a different graffiti artist with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The All Stars Project:
Also available in a gift box as a set of ten:
Buy the chocolate bars here.
Graffiti Taxonomy is an ongoing project by Evan Roth which presents isolated letters from various graffiti tags, reproduced in similar scales and at close proximity. The intent of these studies is to show the diversity of styles as expressed in a single character.
Above: The ‘S’ is reproduced from photographs of tags taken in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He is currently seeking any leads for funding or from publications that would allow me to complete each letter of the alphabet from tags found throughout New York City. Please send any leads to Evan at [email protected].
You can buy prints of his Graffiti Taxonomy here.
My Lord! You can even buy a religious Graffiti sticker:
Get the Graffiti Jesus sticker or magnet here.
And yes, the trend has even hit the baby demographic.
There are graffiti inspired blocks, custom personalized onesies and even custom graffiti hats and clothes for toddlers. Timberland even makes Nubuck graffiti boots for toddlers!
Buy them here (and they are on sale now).
And for your canine companions, you can get Graffiti collars and leads!:
Buy them here.
Buy them here.
Above: You can download a fun coloring book of unadorned graffiti settings (drawn as line art) of dumpsters, subway trains, mailboxes and more to practice your street art upon from Fake Corporation of America.
Above: bombings by Sweet Uno
A brief history of Graffiti:
In America around the late 1960s, graffiti was used as a form of expression by political activists, and also by gangs such as the Savage Skulls, La Familia, and Savage Nomads to mark territory. Towards the end of the 1960s, the signatures (called ‘tags’)of Philadelphia graffiti writers Top Cat, Cool Earl and Cornbread started to appear.
Around 1970-71, the center of graffiti innovation moved to New York City where writers following in the wake of TAKI 183 and Tracy 168 would add their street number to their nickname, “bomb” a train with their work, and let the subway take itand their fame, if it was impressive, or simply pervasive, enough”all city”. Bubble lettering held sway initially among writers from the Bronx, though the elaborate Brooklyn style Tracy 168 dubbed “wildstyle” would come to define the art. The early trendsetters were joined in the 70s by artists like Dondi, Futura 2000, Daze, Blade, Lee, Zephyr, Rammellzee, Crash, Kel, NOC 167 and Lady Pink.
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. Super Kool 223 is credited as being the first to do these pieces. (source: Wikipedia).
Links about graffiti:
Graffiti as defined by Wikipedia Tons of info, resources and links
History Of Graffiti (UCL, London’s Global University)
Graffiti Art & Crime (UC Berkeley)
Time Magazines archive of Graffiti articles
The National Alliance Of Gang Investigator’s Associations (how they define gang graffiti).
Graffiti News– a blog for graffiti writers
Fatcap – a worldwide graffiti blog
Graffiti Research Lab
Art Crimes: Best Graffiti Sites list
Graff Inc (Graffiti supplies, stores and pictures)
Tags Are Known (Giant archive of photos of graffiti and links)
12oz prophet (online graffiti community)
Graff City (supplies)
Worldwide Writers Graffiti site (online community and more)
Above: “Cereal Killers’ wall by Stet One.
Links To Some Interesting Street & Urban Artists’ Sites:
Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant
Art Crimes’ Featured Artists (graffiti.org)
Stash’s Recon store
Wooster Collective’s Graffiti Archives
Above: the Santa Ana Police Department uses the above poster to help parents to determine whether or not their child is a tagger. Hilarious.
TAGGER LANGUAGE: (as defined by NAGIA)
Bomb: Multicolored tag in large bubble letters.
Buff: To remove graffiti
Crew: Group of individuals that tag together.
Caps: (Fat/skinny) Spray can nozzles used to vary the style and width of paint.
Fade: To blend colors.
Fresh: Really good graffiti.
Get Up: To put up a large amount of graffiti tags.
Heavens: Hard to reach high areas such as freeway signs and the tops/upper floors of buildings.
Hit/Hit Up: To tag.
Landmarks: A prime location where graffiti won’t quickly be erased.
Mob: A whole crew doing graffiti on a wall at the same time.
Piece Book: A tagger’s sketch book.
Rack: To steal from off the store rack.
Streak: Short for mean streak, solid paint stick that looks like chalk and is used on dark surfaces.
Tag Banging: To use violence to defend a tag.
Toy: A new, inexperienced writer.
Throw Up: One layer of spray paint filling in bubble letters that are outlined in another color.
Wild style: A complicated piece constructed with interlocking letters.
Yard/Train Yard: Gathering place.
Zine: Short for magazines.
Wish you could be a tagger but you’re too old? Too conservative? Too safe? Well, here are ways to get the thrill without the criminal record. See more graffiti inspired items you can buy on my Tag, you’re it! Graffiti inspired items list at ThisNext.