Graffiti Art

Graffiti are writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface, often within public view. Graffiti range from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and they have existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. In modern times, paint (particularly spray paint) and marker pens have become the most commonly used graffiti materials. In most countries, marking or painting property without the property owner’s permission is considered defacement and vandalism, which is a punishable crime.

Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages and a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint graffiti styles. Within hip hop culture, graffiti have evolved alongside hip hop music, b-boying, and other elements. Unrelated to hip-hop graffiti, gangs use their own form of graffiti to mark territory or to serve as an indicator of gang-related activities. Controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement amongst city officials, law enforcement, and writers who wish to display and appreciate work in public locations. There are many different types and styles of graffiti; it is a rapidly developing art form whose value is highly contested and reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection, sometimes within the same jurisdiction.

The modern-day graffiti artist can be found with an arsenal of various materials that allow for a successful production of a piece. This includes such techniques as scribing. However, spray paint in aerosol cans is the number one medium for graffiti. From this commodity comes different styles, technique, and abilities to form master works of graffiti. Spray paint can be found at hardware and art stores and comes in virtually every color. Stencil graffiti, originating in the early 1980s (Blek le Rat, Jef Aerosol, Speedy Graphito, Miss Tic…) is created by cutting out shapes and designs in a stiff material (such as cardboard or subject folders) to form an overall design or image. The stencil is then placed on the “canvas” gently and with quick, easy strokes of the aerosol can, the image begins to appear on the intended surface. This method of graffiti is popular amongst artists because of its swift technique that requires very little time. Time is always a factor with graffiti artists due to the constant threat of being caught by law enforcement.

Graffiti artists constantly have the looming threat of facing consequences for displaying their graffiti. Many choose to protect their identities and reputation by remaining anonymous. With the commercialization of graffiti (and hip hop in general), in most cases, even with legally painted “graffiti” art, graffiti artists tend to choose anonymity. This may be attributed to various reasons or a combination of reasons. Graffiti still remains the one of four hip hop elements that is not considered “performance art” despite the image of the “singing and dancing star” that sells hip hop culture to the mainstream. Being a graphic form of art, it might also be said that many graffiti artists still fall in the category of the introverted archetypal artist. Pixnit is another artist who chooses to keep her identity from the general public. Her work focuses on beauty and design aspects of graffiti as opposed to Banksy’s anti-government shock value. Her paintings are often of flower designs above shops and stores in her local urban area of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Some store owners endorse her work and encourage others to do similar work as well. “One of the pieces was left up above Steve’s Kitchen, because it looks pretty awesome”- Erin Scott, the manager of New England Comics in Allston, Massachusetts.