Reference Library: Graffiti
'Graffiti' is a type of deliberately inscribed marking made by humans on surfaces, both private and public. Graffiti can also refer to website defacements; however, it usually takes the form of publicly painted art, drawings or words. When done without a property owner's consent it constitutes vandalism, although in many countries the owner must press charges before it would be considered a crime. In the UK city councils have the power to take action against the owner of any property that has been defaced under the Anti-social Behavior Act or, in certain cases, the Highways Act. This is often used against owners of property that are complacent in allowing protective boards to be defaced so long as the property isn't damaged.
Graffiti has existed at least since the days of ancient civilizations such as classical Greece and the Roman Empire.
The word "graffiti" expresses the plural of "graffito", although the singular form has become relatively obscure and is largely used in art history to refer to works of art made by scratching the design on a surface. Another related term is sgraffito, a way of creating a design by scratching through one layer of pigment to reveal another one beneath. All of these English words come from the Italian language, most likely descending from "graffiato", the past participle of "graffiare" (to scratch); ancient graffitists scratched their work into walls before the advent of spray-paint, as in murals or frescoes. These words derive in their turn from the Greek γραφειν (graphein), meaning "to write". Historians continue to speculate over the vexing question as to where the term "graffiti" first referred to this form of marking.
History of graffiti
Historically, the term graffiti originally 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. Usage of the word has evolved to include any decorations (inscribed on any surface) that one can regard as vandalism; or to cover pictures or writing placed on surfaces, usually external walls and sidewalks, without the permission of an owner. Thus, inscriptions made by the authors of a monument are not classed as graffiti.
The first known example of "modern style" graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) and appears to advertise prostitution, according to the tour guides of the city. It stands near the long mosaic and stone walkway and consists of a handprint, a vaguely heart-like shape, a footprint and a number. This purportedly indicates how many steps one would have to take to find a lover, with the handprint indicating payment.
The Romans carved graffiti into their own walls and monuments, and examples of their work also exist in Egypt. The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti carved on the walls of Pompeii, and they offer us a direct insight into street life: everyday Latin, insults, magic, love declarations, political consigns. In contrast to typical modern graffiti, alphabets and quotations from famous literature (especially the first line of Virgil's Aeneid) have been found scribbled on the walls of Pompeii, either for the pleasure of the writer or to impress, albeit anonymously, the passer-by with one's familiarity with letters and literature. In an ancient variant on the "for a good time..." theme, an inscription gives the address of one Novellia Primigenia of Nuceria, apparently a great beauty and subject of constant enquiry; an illustration of a phallus was accompanied by the text, mansueta tene: "Handle with care." Love was also the object of scorn:
:Quisquis amat. veniat. Veneri volo frangere costas
:fustibus et lumbos debilitare deae.
:Si potest illa mihi tenerum pertundere pectus
: quit ego non possim caput illae frangere fuste?
:''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.
Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli also has several examples.
Errors in spelling and grammar in graffiti not only inform us of the degree of literacy of many of the graffiti scrawlers, but they also give clues as to the pronunciation of spoken Latin. Such is the case with CIL IV, 7838: Vettium Firmum / aed[ilem] quactiliar[ii] [sic] rog[ant]. Here "qu" reflects the common pronunciation of "co". Conversely, ancient graffiti also provide us with evidence of the ability to read and write among classes of people for whom literacy was not requisite and might not otherwise be assumed. For example, the 83 graffiti found at CIL IV, 4706-85 (a peristyle which had been undergoing remodeling at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius) were executed not only by the architect Crescens, but also by most of the members of the work crew for whom he served as foreman. The brothel at CIL VII, 12, 18-20 contains over 120 graffiti, the authors of which included the prostitutes as well as their clients. And finally, the gladiatorial academy at CIL IV, 4397 contained graffiti left by the gladiator Celadus Crescens (Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex: "Celadus the Thracier makes the girls sigh.")
thumb]]However, not only Greeks and Romans produced graffiti: the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala, also contains ancient examples. Viking graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and Varangians carved their runes in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The ancient Irish inscribed stones with an alphabet called Ogham -- this standard mode of writing may not fall into the category of graffiti. There are also examples in American history, like Signature Rock (a national landmark), along the Oregon Trail.
Later, French soldiers carved their names on monuments during the Napoleonic campaign of Egypt in the 1790s. There is Chinese graffiti on the great wall of China.
Art forms like frescoes and murals involve leaving images and writing on wall surfaces. Like the prehistoric wall paintings created by cave dwellers, they do not comprise graffiti, as the artists generally produce them with the explicit permission (and usually support) of the owner or occupier of the walls.
thumb market London.]]
Modern graffiti is intertwined with Hip-Hop as one of the 4 main elements of the culture (along with the MC, the DJ, and Break Dancing), and is often viewed as a misunderstood art form. Graffiti today has evolved into a complete culture from its roots as a subculture of hiphop. Graffiti culture itself is the creator of its own fairly extensive slang primarily used by graffiti artists and not by the unaffiliated wider hiphop culture, making it unique to style. The most prominent years in graffiti’s history were the years from 1966 – 1989. During this period graffiti was evolving through activity in subway stations and on the subway cars themselves.
Graffiti artists or "writers" sometimes select their nicknames ("tags"), like screennames, to reflect some personal qualities, but often a tag is chosen for how the word sounds when spoken aloud or how the letters sit with each other when written; usually referred to as how the tag "flows". The letters in a word can make doing pieces very difficult if the shapes of the letters don't sit next to each other in a visually pleasing way. Also some tags are humorous plays on common expressions, such as: Page3, 2Shae, 2Cold, In1 and many others. Tags can also contain subtle and often cryptic messages or in some cases the writers initials or other letters become a part of the tag. The current year is often put up next to tags as well; the bomber Tox, from London, never writes just Tox; it is always Tox03, Tox04, etc. In some cases, writers dedicate or create tags or graffiti in memory of a deceased friend, for example, "DIVA Peekrevs R.I.P. JTL '99". Tags are usually between 3 to 5 letters long to make the process of doing them illegally faster, but can be any length at all.
Initial groundwork for graffiti begin around the late 1960’s. Around this time, graffiti was mainly a form of expression by political activists. It was considered a cheap and easy way to make a statement, with minimal risk to the writer, often at the time a hippie. As the foundations of graffiti began, gang graffiti also began to arise, used largely by gangs to mark territory. Some gangs to make use of graffiti during this era include the Savage Skulls, La Familia, and Savage Nomads. Towards the end of the 1960s the modern culture began to form in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The two writers considered to be responsible for the first true bombing are Cool Earl and Cornbread. They gained much attention from the Philladelphia press and the community itself by writing their names everywhere. Around 1970-71, the centre of graffiti innovation moved from Philadelphia to New York City. Once the initial foundation was laid (occurred around 1966 - 1971), graffiti "pioneers" began inventing newer and more creative ways to write.
The time between 1971-1974 is referred to as the "pioneering era" where graffiti underwent a surge in styles and popularity. Soon after the migration to NYC, Bronx (Manhattan) produced one of the first graffiti artists to gain media attention in New York, TAKI 183. TAKI183 was a kid from Washington Heights who worked as a foot messenger, his tag is a mixture of his name Panayiotakis, TAKI, and his street number, 183rd. Being a foot messenger, he was constantly on the subway began to put up his tags along his travels. Due to the strange name and number people began to take notice of him. This spawned a 1971 article in the New York Times titled, ""Taki 183" Spawns Pen Pals". TAKI 183 wasn’t the first writer, but he was the first to be recognized by society outside of the graffiti subculture. Fab Five Freddy is another popular graffiti figure of this time, often credited with helping to spread the influence of graffiti and rap music beyond its early foundations in the Bronx.
As the influence of graffiti grew, Brooklyn began a graffiti movement as well with such prominent artists as Friendly Freddie. 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 writers at this point was to have as many tags as possible, in as many places as possible. Writers 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. This is when the act of bombing was said to officially be established. Around this time, tags began to take on their signature calligraphic appearance, this was due to the huge number of writers- they needed a way to distinguish themselves. Aside from the growing complexity and creativity, tags also began to grow in size and scale. Spray paint use increased dramatically around this time as writers began to expand their work. For example, many writers had begun to increase letter size and line thickness, as well as outlining them in colour. Eventually the use of designs such as polka dots, crosshatches, and checkers became popular. "Top-to-bottoms" made their first appearance around this time as well. They are tags which span the entire height of a subway car. The overall creativity and artistic maturation of this time period never went unnoticed by the mainstream. An example of this is Hugo Martinez, who founded the United Graffiti Artists (UGA). The UGA consisted of many top writers of the time, and aimed to present graffiti in an art gallery setting. By 1974, writers had begun to incorporate the use of scenery and cartoon characters into their work. The many new styles and innovations that emerged during this era eventually broke into what some refer to as the climax of the culture.
After the original pioneering efforts, which culminated in 1974, the art form peaked around 1975 – 1977. By this time, most standards had been set in graffiti writing and culture. This was the time of the heaviest "bombing" in U.S. history. Partly because of the economic restraints on New York City, limiting its ability to combat this artform with graffiti removal programs or transit maintenance. Also during this time, top-to-bottoms evolved into whole cars. Pieces the size of entire subway cars became pretty commonplace. Most note-worthy of this era proved to be the forming of the throw-up, which are more complex then simple "tagging", but not as intricate as a "piece". Not long after its introduction, throw-ups lead to races to see who could do the most the fastest. Writing was becoming very competitive. Throw ups and whole cars were the jewels of this time period. Eventually, the standards which had been set in the early 70s began to become stagnant. These changes in attitude lead many writers 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. It was also, however, the last wave of true bombing before the Transit Authority made graffiti eradication a priority. The MTA (Metro Transit Authority) began to repair yard fences, and remove graffiti consistently, battling the surge of graffiti artists. With the MTA combatting the writers by removing their work it often lead many writers to quit in frustration, as their work was constantly being removed. It was also 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. In 1979, writer Lee Quinones, and Fab Five Freddie(Fred Brathwaite) were given a gallery opening in Rome by art dealer Claudio Bruni. Slowly, European art dealers became more interested in the new art form. For many outside of New York, it was the first time ever being exposed to the art form.
During the 1980's the cultural aspect of graffiti was said to be deteriorating almost to the point of extinction. The rapid decline in writing was due to several factors. For one, the streets were becoming increasingly dangerous due to high powered weapons being brought in by the crack-cocaine epidemic. Also, legislation was underway to make penalties for writers more severe, and restrictions on paint sale and display made racking materials difficult. Above all else though, the MTA greatly increased their anti-graffiti budget. Many favored painting sites became heavily guarded, yards were patrolled, newer and better fences were erected, and buffing of pieces was strong, heavy, and consistent. As the popular saying goes: ‘where there is a will, there’s a way’. Many writers took this to heart and chose to see the new problems as a challenge rather than a reason to quit. A downside to these challenges was that writers became very territorial of good writing spots, and strength and unity in numbers became increasingly important. This was probably the most violent era in graffiti history. Writers who chose to go out alone were often beaten and robbed of their supplies. Some of the mentionable writers from this era were Skeme, Spade, BG 183, and Flight. This was stated to be the end for the casual NYC subway graffiti writers, and the years to follow would be populated by only what some consider the most "die hard" writers.
Die Hard Era
The years between 1985 and 1989 is known as the "die hard" era. A last shot for the writers of this time was in the form of subway cars destined for the scrap yard. The MTA reduced cleanup on these soon-to-be-decommissioned cars. With the increased security, the culture had taken a step back. The previous elaborate "burners" on the outside of cars were now marred with simplistic marker tags which often soaked through the paint. By mid 1986 the MTA was officially winning their "war on graffiti", and the population of active writers diminished. As the population of writers lowered so did the violence associated with graffiti crews and "bombing." Some notable writers of this era were Ghost, Cavs, TC5, and Reas.
In some cases, writers have achieved such elaborate graffiti (especially those done in memory of a deceased person) on storefront gates that shopkeepers have hesitated to cover them up. In the Bronx after the death of rapper Big Pun, [http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1439015/20010202/story.jhtml] several murals dedicated to his life appeared virtually overnight; similar outpourings occurred after the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.[http://www.harlemlive.org/community/elbarrio/tupac.htm][http://www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2006/May-2006/05_04_06_Bang_the_Wall.htm] Princess Di and Mother Teresa were also memorialised this way in New York City. Other works covering otherwise unadorned fences or walls may likewise become so highly elaborate that property-owners or the government may choose to keep them rather than cleaning them off. "Free walls" or commissioned walls are now a common part of the culture.
"Clean Train Movement" Era
Currently, the graffiti movement is in the "Clean Train Movement" (1989-present), and is characterized by a majority of graffiti artists moving from illegal graffiti to "street galleries". The Clean Train Movement started in May, 1989, when New York attempted to remove all of the subway cars found with graffiti on them out of the transit system. Because of this, many writers had to resort to new ways to express themselves. A lot of controversy arose among the streets debating whether graffiti should be considered an actual form of art. [http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/03/21/otr.green/index.html]
During this period many graffiti artists have taken to a new medium, displaying their works in galleries and owning their own studios. This phenomenon had started in the early 1980's for artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, who started out tagging locations with his signature SAMO (Same Old Shit), and Keith Haring, who was also able to take his art into studio spaces.
With the popularity and legitimization of Graffiti to and extent, it has begun a stage of commercialization. The act of public destruction will remain illegal, however the opportunity for companies to profit from the culture has come to light. In 2001, computer giant IBM launched an advertising campaign which involved people in various states spray painting on sidewalks a peace symbol, a heart, and a penguin (Linux mascot), to represent "I Love Linux." However due to illegalities some of the "street artists" were arrested and charged with vandalism.[http://archives.cnn.com/2001/TECH/industry/04/19/ibm.guerilla.idg/index.html]
Along with the commercial growth has come the rise of video games also depicting graffiti, usually in a positive aspect. Titles such as Jet Grind Radio tell the story of a group of teens fighting the oppression of a totalitarian police force that attempts to limit the graffiti artists free speech. Following the original roots of modern graffiti as a political force came another game title ''Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure'' which features a similar story line of fighting against a corrupt city and its oppression of free speech. Mark Ecko, an urban clothing designer, has been advocate of graffiti as an art form during this period, stating "Graffiti is without question the most powerful art movement in recent history and has been a driving inspiration throughout my career." [http://www.sohh.com/articles/article.php/7428]
Theories of Graffiti Use
Theories on the use of graffiti by avant-garde artists have a history dating back at least to the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism of 1961.
Most of those who practice graffiti art wish to distance themselves from gang graffiti. Differences in both form and intent exist: graffiti art aims at self-expression and creativity, and may involve highly stylized letterforms drawn with markers, or cryptic and colorful spray paint murals on walls, buildings, and even freight trains. Graffiti artists strive to improve their art, which constantly changes and progresses. Gang graffiti, on the other hand, functions to mark territorial boundaries, and therefore does not transcend a gang's neighborhood; in the eyes of lovers of graffiti-art, it does not presuppose artistic intent.
Many contemporary analysts and even art critics have begun to see artistic value in some graffiti and to recognize it as a form of public art. According to many art researchers, particularly in the Netherlands and in Los Angeles, that type of public art is, in fact an effective tool of social emancipation or in the achievement of a political goal. [http://www.jss.org.au/media/docs/participation.doc (.doc file)]
The murals of Belfast and of Los Angeles offer another example of official recognition. In times of conflict, such murals have offered a means of communication and self-expression for members of these socially, ethnically and/or racially divided communities, and have proven themselves as effective tools in establishing dialog and thus of addressing cleavages in the long run.
Many artists involved with Graffiti also are concerned with a similar activity: Stenciling. Essentially, this entails stenciling a print of one or more colours using spray-paint. John Fekner (b. NYC) called, "caption writer to the urban environment, adman for the opposition" by writer Lucy Lippard, was involved in direct art interventions within New York City’s decaying urban environment in the mid-seventies through the eighties. Fekner is known for his word installations targeting social and political issues, stenciled on buildings throughout New York. In the UK, Banksy is the most recognisable icon for this cultural artistic movement; keeping his identity secret to avoid arrest. Much of Banksy's artwork can be seen around the streets of London and surrounding suburbs. A number of exhibitions have also taken place since 2000.
Radical and Political Graffiti
Graffiti often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority, although the considerations of the practitioners often diverge and can relate to a wide range of attitudes. We see graffiti not only as an art but also as a lifestyle. It can express a political practice and can form just one tool in an array of resistance techniques. One early example includes the political punk band Crass, who conducted a campaign of stencilling anti-war, anarchist, feminist and anti-consumerist messages around the London Underground system during the late 1970s and early 1980s [http://www.southern.com/southern/label/CRC/09400a.html].
The developments of graffiti art which took place in art galleries and colleges as well as "on the street" or "underground", contributed to the resurfacing in the 1990s of a far more overtly politicized art form in the subvertising, culture jamming or tactical media movements. These movements or styles tend to classify the artists by their relationship to their social and economic contexts, since graffiti art remains illegal in many forms, in most countries.
Contemporary practitioners, accordingly, have varied and often conflicting practices. Some individuals, such as Alexander Brener, have used the medium to politicise other art forms, and have used the prison sentences forced onto them as a means of further protest. [http://www.villagevoice.com/art/0030,levin,16706,13.html]
The practices of anonymous groups and individuals also vary widely, and practitioners by no means always agree with each others' practices. Anti-capitalist art group the Space Hijackers, for example, in 2004 did a piece about the contradiction between the capitalistic elements of Banksy and his use of political imagery. As an added complication to this picture, some artists receive a combination of government funding as well as commercial or private means, like irrational.org who recently coined the term Advert Expressionism, replacing the word Abstract for Advert, in Clement Greenberg's essay on Abstract Expressionism.
On top of the political aspect of graffiti as a movement, political groups and individuals may also use graffiti as a tool to spread their point of view. One can label this as "propaganda graffiti". This practice, due to its illegality, has generally become favored by groups excluded from the political mainstream (e.g. far-left or far-right groups) who justify their activity by pointing out that they do not have the money -- or sometimes the desire -- to buy advertising to get their message across, and that a 'ruling class' or 'establishment' control the mainstream press, systematically excluding the radical/alternative point of view. This type of graffiti can seem crude, for example fascist supporters often scrawl swastikas and other Nazi images. Because of the strong associations between Nazi images and racial violence, many see this type of graffiti as tantamount to a threat of violence, and thus some would classify it as a form of terrorism.
Both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland produce political graffiti. As well as slogans, Northern Irish political graffiti include large naïve wall paintings, referred to as murals. Along with the flying of flags and the painting of kerb stones, the murals serve a territorial purpose. Artists paint them mostly on house gables or on the Peace Lines, high walls that separate different communities. The murals often develop over an extended period and tend to stylization, with a strong symbolic or iconographic content. Loyalist murals often refer to historical events dating from the war between James II and William III in the late 17th century, whereas Republican murals usually refer to the more recent troubles.
Following the recuperation of 'Post-Graffiti', illegal fly-posting provides another popular visual method by which political groups seek to spread their message and advertise their events. In the UK, posters advertising the February 15, protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq stayed visible months after the event and may remain for years.
Some of the most common styles of graffiti have their own names. A "tag" being the most basic writing of an artists name in either spray paint or marker. "Tagging" is often the example given when opponents of graffiti refer to vandalism, as the artistic form is lacking and style of penmanship is highlited more. Another form is "throw-ups" which are normally quickly done pieces featuring very simple pieces using few colours, sacrificing asthetics for speed. Throw-ups are usually only 2 letters and often incorporate exclamation marks. "Blockbuster" is a style that involves large block letters as opposed to the style of using rounded letters called "bubble letters". A more complex style is "wildstyle", a form of graffiti involving interlocking letters, arrows, and connecting points. Wildstyle pieces are often harder to read by non graffiti artists as the letters merge into one another in often undecipherable manner.
Each graffiti piece can show different styles; the culture of the country in which the artist resides or originates from can play a major role in the development of their personal style. For instance, in Asia countries' graffiti pieces often reflect cultural elements such as characters unique to that region. Japanese graffiti pieces contain Japanese terms, and lettering as well as traditional colors for the region. American graffiti is widely influenced by hip-hop music and so contains characters representive of that. From some graffiti pieces you can also learn something about the artist or writer, and find out what meaning they are trying to convey.
Graffiti is subject to different societal pressures from popularly-recognized art forms, since graffiti appears on walls, freeways, buildings, trains or any accessible surfaces that are not owned by the person who applies the graffiti. This means that graffiti forms incorporate elements rarely seen elsewhere. Spray paint and broad permanent markers are commonly used, and the organizational structure of the art is sometimes influenced by the need to apply the art quickly before it is noticed by authorities.
In an effort to reduce vandalism, many cities have designated walls or areas exclusively for use by graffiti artists. Some have suggested that this discourages petty vandalism yet encourages artists to take their time and produce great art, without worry of being caught or arrested for vandalism or trespassing. Others disagree with this approach, arguing that the presence of legal graffiti walls does not demonstrably reduce illegal graffiti elsewhere.
While some perceive graffiti as a method of reclaiming public space, many others regard it as an unwanted nuisance, or as expensive vandalism requiring repair of the vandalized property. One can view graffiti as a 'quality of life' issue, and many people suggest that the presence of graffiti contributes to a general sense of squalor and a heightened fear of crime. Advocates of the "broken window theory" believe that this sense of decay encourages further vandalism and promotes an environment leading to offenses that are more serious. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch's vigorous subscription to the broken window theory promoted an aggressive anti-graffiti campaign in New York in the early eighties, resulting in 'the buff', a chemical wash for trains that dissolved the paint off. New York City has adopted a strenuous zero tolerance policy ever since. However, throughout the world, authorities often, though not always, treat graffiti as a minor nuisance crime, though with widely varying penalties.
Chicago's mayor, Richard M. Daley created the 'Graffiti Blasters' to eliminate graffiti and gang-related vandalism. The bureau promises absolutely free cleanup within 24 hours of a phone call. The bureau uses paints (common to the city's 'color scheme') and baking-soda based solvents to erase all varieties of graffiti.
In 1984, the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN) was created to combat the city's growing concerns about gang-related graffiti. PAGN led to the creation of the Mural Arts Program, which replaced often hit spots with elaborate, commissioned murals that were protected by a city ordinance, increasing fines and penalties for anyone caught defacing a mural.
Community cleaning squads have responded to graffiti. In France, the Protestant youth group Éclaireurs de France took their graffiti-scrubbing into the Meyrieres Cave near the French village of Bruniquel in Tarn-et-Garonne, where they carefully erased the ancient paintings from the walls, earning them the 1992 Ig Nobel Prize in archaeology.
Graffiti made the news in 1993, over an incident in Singapore involving several expensive cars found spray-painted. The police arrested a student from Singapore American School, Michael P. Fay, questioned him and subsequently charged him with vandalism. Fay pleaded guilty for vandalizing the car in addition to stealing road signs. Under the 1966 Singapore Vandalism Act, originally passed to curb the spread of communist graffiti in Singapore, the court sentenced him to four months in jail, a fine of 3,500 Singaporean dollars (US $2,233 or GB £1,450), and a caning. The New York Times ran several editorials and op-eds that condemned the punishment and called on the American public to flood the Singaporean embassy with protests. Although the Singapore government received many calls for clemency, Fay's caning took place in Singapore on May 5, 1994.
In 1995 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York set up the Anti-Graffiti Task Force, a multi-agency initiative to combat the perceived problem of graffiti vandals in New York City. This began a crackdown in "quality of life crimes" throughout the city, and one of the largest anti-graffiti campaigns in U.S. history. That same year Title 10-117 of the New York Administrative Code banned the sale of aerosol spray-paint cans to children under 18. The law also requires that merchants who sell spray-paint must lock it in a case or display cans behind a counter, out of reach of potential shoplifters. Violations of the city's anti-graffiti law carry fines of $350 per count. Famous NYC graffiti artist Zephyr wrote an opposing viewpoint to this law.
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 became Britain's latest anti-graffiti legislation.
In August 2004, the Keep Britain Tidy campaign issued a press release calling for zero tolerance of graffiti and supporting proposals such as issuing "on the spot" fines to graffiti offenders and banning the sale of aerosol paint to teenagers. The press release also condemned the use of graffiti images in advertising and in music videos, arguing that real-world experience of graffiti stood far removed from its often-portrayed 'cool' or 'edgy' image. To back the campaign, 123 MPs (including Prime Minister Tony Blair) signed a charter which stated: ''Graffiti is not art, it's crime. On behalf of my constituents, I will do all I can to rid our community of this problem.''
The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico has had an aggressive anti-graffiti program since the mid-1990s. The city regarded its heavily-tagged arroyos, bridges and sound barrier walls as an eyesore. Reports emerged of writers suffering injury and death attempting to tag their gang's area or while spray painting graffiti on the bridges. Each park and arroyo now has a sign posted that gives the telephone number to the Albuquerque ''Tagger's Hotline, and a website exists where citizens can report writers or graffiti online. Most stores in the metro area will not even sell spray paint without seeing an ID, and some have gone so far as to lock the spray paint away. Punishments include fines, community service and jail.
On January 1, 2006, in New York City, legislation created by Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. attempted to make it illegal for a person under the age of 21 to possess spray-paint or permanent markers. The law prompted outrage by fashion and media mogul Marc Ecko who sued Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Councilmember Vallone on behalf of art students and legitimate graffiti artists. On May 1, 2006, Judge George B. Daniels granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction against the recent amendments to the anti-graffiti legislation, effectively prohibiting (on May 4) the New York City Police Department from enforcing the restrictions. A similar measure was proposed in New Castle County, Delaware in April 2006 and was passed into law as a county ordinance in May 2006.
In Houston, Texas, at-large Councilmember Sue Lovell has spoken out against graffiti to which the City of Houston is considering legislation similar to the one in New York City. Her community, which includes the Montrose area, has been plagued with graffiti vandalism for years - from street signs to public buildings.
A number of words and phrases have come to describe different styles and aspects of graffiti. Like all slang and colloquialisms the phrases vary in different cities and countries. The following terminology comes primarily from the United States.
;back to back
:Graffiti that covers a wall from end to end, as seen on some parts of the West-Berlin side of the Berlin Wall. Similarly, trains sometimes receive end to end painting; which means a carriage has been painted along its entire length (but not to the top of the carriage). This is often abbreviated to e2e. End to ends used to be called window-downs but this is an older expression that is falling from popularity.
;bite: An oldschool NYC term for nic''.
;black book: A graffiti artist's sketchbook. Often used to sketch out and plan potential graffiti, and to collect tags from other writers.
;bombing: To bomb' or to hit describes painting many surfaces. Throw-ups or tags are often utilized, since they don't require much time to execute.
;buffing: To remove spraypainted graffiti with chemicals and other instruments, or to paint over it with a flat color.
;burner: Typically a large, elaborate piece, more elaborate than a normal piece. The piece could be said to be "burning" out of the wall or train-side. Burners often originate legally, because of the time and effort put into them, but the great early writers of New York also did burners illegally on trains.
;crew: A group of writers or graffiti-artists. Some crews are members of gangs, or are associated with gangs for art materials or protection during the process of creation, but many crews are unaffiliated with gangs.
;DUB: A piece usually large, done in only two seperate colours. Other colours can be used however, on the outside of the piece.
;etch: The use of acid solutions intended for creating frosted glass, such as Etch Bath, to write on windows.
;going over: If a writer goes over or tags upon another writer's piece, it is the same as declaring war against the opponent writer. Most writers respect others' work, and the basic rules for replacing other creations are in this order: tag - throwup - piece. You should only paint over another's work if it has been slashed (or "dissed") already or if you will be creating something better than the original piece. As what constitutes "better" is highly subjective, this often leads to disagreements. If someone breaks these guidelines the person is considered a "toy", or generally an annoyance.
;heavens: Pieces that are painted in hard-to-reach places such as rooftops, thus making them hard to remove. Such pieces (also commonly known as giraffiti), by the nature of the spot, often pose dangerous challenges to execute, but may increase an artist's notoriety.
;insides: Tags or bombs done inside trains, trams, or buses. In 1970s New York, there was as much graffiti inside the subway trains as outside, and the same is true of some cities today (like Rome, Italy and Melbourne, Australia). While very common, insides are often less artistic and seldom documented.
;king: The opposite of "toys," kings are writers especially respected among other writers, sometimes separated into "inside" and "outside" kings. To be a king of the inside means you have most tags inside trains (to "own the inside"), and to "own the outside" means having most pieces on the train surface. One should note that there are kings of style among a variety of other categories and the term is regionally subjective. Self-declared kings will often incorporate crowns into their pieces; a commonly used element of style.
;"MOB": Kicking it Live crew was the first graffitti crew to evolve into a mob by traveling LA in groups of 20 or more to keep toys in line.
;nic: To steal another artist's ideas or lettering schemes. Seasoned artists will often complain about 'toys' that nic their work.
;painteater: Surfaces coated with a certain chemical that causes spraypaint to be consumed.
;piece: From masterpiece—a large image, often with 3-D effects, arrows giving flow and direction, many colors and color-transitions and various other effects. A piece needs more time than a throw-up. If placed in a difficult location and well executed it will earn the writer more respect. Piece can also be used as a verb that means: "to write". (See also: Super kool 223)
;scratchitti: Also called "scratchitti," a technique that involves making purposely hard-to-remove graffiti by scratching or etching a tag into an object, generally using a key or another sharp object such as a knife, stone, ceramic drill bit, or diamond tipped Dremel bit. The Mohs scale of mineral hardness determines which stones or other objects will scratch what surfaces.
;slash: To put a line through, or tag over, another's graffiti. This is considered an insult. It is also known as "capping", "marking", "buffing", and "dissing".
;sticky: A sticker (often taken from a post office) with the writer's tag on it. A sticker can be deployed more quickly than other forms of graffiti, making it a favorite in especially public places like newspaper dispensers.
;tag: A stylized signature; the terms tagger and writer refer to a person who "tags". A tag can be distinguished from a piece by its relative simplicity. Tags are usually comprised of a single color that contrasts sharply with its background. Tag can also be used as a verb which means "to sign". Writers often tag their pieces following the tradition of signing masterpieces. A less common type of tag is a "dust tag", done in dust by writers wishing to practice.
;throw-up: A throw-up or "throwie" sits between a "tag" and a "piece" in terms of complexity and time investment. It generally consists of an outline (like black) and one layer of fill-color (like silver). Easy-to-paint bubble-shapes often form the letters. A throw-up is designed for quick execution, to avoid attracting attention to the writer. Throw-ups are often utilized by writers who wish to achieve a large number of tags while competing with rival artists.
;top-to-bottom: Pieces on trains that cover the whole height of the car. A top-to-bottom, end-to-end production is called a whole-car. A production with several writers might cover a whole-train, which means the entire side of the train has been covered.
;toy: An inexperienced or unskilled writer. More experienced graffiti artists use this as a derogatory term for new writers in the scene.
;up: Writers become up when their work becomes widespread and well-known. Although a writer can "get up" in a city by painting only tags (or throw-ups), a writer may earn more respect from skillfully executed pieces or a well-rounded repertoire of styles than from sheer number of tags.
Documentaries and films on graffiti
*Style Wars, an early documentary on hip hop culture, made in New York City in 1983 for PBS
*Piece By Piece (2005), a feature length documentary on the history of San Francisco graffiti from the early 1980s until the present day. Called the "west coast Style Wars"
*Quality of Life (2004), a drama shot in the Mission District of San Francisco
*Bomb the System (2005), a drama about a crew of graffiti writers in modern day New York City
*NEXT: A Primer on Urban Painting (2005), a documentary
*Bomb It! (in production)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Graffiti".