Yorkers used to see the graffiti on the walls of poor neighbourhoods and subway
trains as something menacing and an example of urban decay. The scrawled names
and slogans were seen as unsightly and aggressive, the work of vandals seeking
to express their identities or even make a political point. Up to the 1970s,
most New Yorkers hated graffiti, considering it as an eyesore that was illegal
and punishable by fines.
those days, graffiti has changed a lot and it is no longer found only in the
subway and the poor ghetto areas of the city. Nowadays, it has the status of
'street art' and you get graffiti in places where you wouldn't expect to - in
advertisements, on clothes, on toys, and even on the Wall Street Journal's
official website! In the early 1980s, there was a real craze for graffiti art
and the sophisticated Manhattan art world had displays of street art in its
galleries. The trend was short-lived - until the arrival of hip-hop music in
the late 80s.
her book, Subway Art, Martha Cooper says "Graffiti came back with hip-hop
music and people are now appreciating it for its style, which they couldn't
back then, because they couldn't get beyond the vandalism thing." Hip-hop
was originally black ghetto music, sung by young African Americans from the
poor, run-down districts of American cities. When it suddenly got to the top of
the American music charts, hip-hop culture was spread, bringing graffiti with
companies are starting to realise the appeal of graffiti in advertising. Kel
Rodriguez, who used to spray New York subway trains, was the artist chosen to
design the Wall Street Journal's website and it is obviously done in
graffiti-style. "Some of that graffiti feeling, that energy, sort of got
in there," Rodriguez explained. Many of this new wave of artists give
lectures on developments in their art. Lee Quindnesis having a lot of success
in Europe and feels that European galleries and museums are more open to his
art form. "They want to support an artist as he develops," comments
Quinones, who can get up to $10,000 for his paintings. Indeed, the Groninger
Museum in Holland is one of the few museums in the world that displays and
recognizes graffiti as an art form.
artist, Blade, has his own website devoted only to the world of graffiti. This
website has a 'merchandise page' where Blade sells things with his own original
designs all over the world - everything from baseball caps to yo-yos! Leonard
McGurr, a street artist for 25 years, went from painting subway trains to
designing and marketing graffiti-inspired clothes for young people.
"Graffiti has been a story of survival," he says. "There's a way
to benefit from your work without spoiling public property."
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