Street Cred: The New Graffiti

There’s a new book out for people who like to display books, not read them. Graffiti New York features over 1,000 images of the city’s best tags, burns and get ups and details the history, social structure and aesthetic concepts of the movement from birth to mainstream globalization. While the images of the book are quite dazzling, the richly documented history is more interesting. A quick lesson in contemporary graffiti culture after the jump.

1. The boom box/break dance graffiti subculture oft romanticized no longer exists. The Man got hold of graffiti. Brands realized associating with graffiti made consumers associate the brand with counterculture and freedom. See Adidas. See Coke. And, of course, Louis Vuitton–because nothings screams anti-fashion like a $3000 bag.

2. There exists a dichotomy between graffiti artists–those who paint legally and those who don’t. Some of the former group land in art galleries, and some still get down tagging the sides of buildings and other various structures—they just get permission from the landlord. This allows them to concentrate on their form and create intricate works of art without interruptions from the Popo. On the other side, old school, law-breaking graffiti artists do still exist. They mostly remain pseudonymous (like Banksy) though. It’s unclear whether these artists think the work of their law-abiding brethren legitimate, but there’s definitely an extra stamp of authenticity for those who withstand the fear of arrest. These artists tend to make smaller, quicker works to avoid running into problems with the law.

3. Graffiti art is no longer as unstable as it used to be. Artists always risk the chance that their work will be covered up or removed (especially if done illegally), but with the help of sites like at149st.com and Art Crimes, a work of graffiti can be preserved via the world wide web. Three cheers for technology!

Now that you’re an informed graffiti spectator–appreciate away! Next week we’ll delve into the deep, existential aesthetics of “the drip effect.”

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