There’s not a lot that can be said today about graffiti that already hasn’t been said. The art form wasn’t always appreciated as a “true” art form and according to some, it still isn’t. As of today, it’s difficult to say precisely what is thought of about graffiti, however, one thing for certain is the global impact it has created for artist. It’s arguable that it’s the earliest form of modern urban art but what matters are the marks it has made on history by always being a timeless tradition-breaking outlet and a way to express the feelings of often unheard and unspoken communities.
In the U.S, graffiti developed a very unique, raw, street and uncensored way of expression. For us at The Manifold, we felt it was important to simply highlight important aspects of this bold art (seen on the timeline).
One lover and curator of the graffiti culture is artist and writer Caleb Neelon. He is the co-author of The History of American Graffiti and says he approached the creation of this book by “trying to make the book we wished we could find.” What’s unique about this published work is that, “ we felt we would have to interview about 500 people from the U.S and the world.” That at the time was “more than double” of what had been published prior. “We also had to source photographs from more than 200 photographers” Neelon says.
Neelon explains that the photographs seen in the book hold quite a special moment in time. Because of what graffiti has been considered, many great canvases have been deleted and undocumented. Some of the best canvases ever completed exist only in the mind of those fortunate to remember the visuals before they were erased. Learning about the key players of artists in the world was easier to come by when discussing the mega cities like New York. Information there was much easier to come by. “What was harder were the places like Boston, Minneapolis or San Diego.” Neelon explains.
Caleb emphasizes that unless you have traveled to certain places in the U.S., there was very little documentation to know about the graffiti scene throughout numerous states across the continent. If it wasn’t for such a devoted community of independent story tellers and photographers, the book probably would have been that much harder to complete. “The one aspect that cannot be denied about graffiti is the connection it has to culture, geography and history.” One artist from Hawaii by the name of Angry Woebots a.k.a Aaron Martin claims that every region’s style is closely connected to its roots. Aaron describes that cartoons influenced him and a number of other artist in the U.S. and by watching them viewers could see the similarities reflected in their art. When discussing styles world wide, Aarons says, “In Europe, they grew up with Michelangelo, Picasso and all these Renaissance painters. That was their background and you can see it.”
What’s tradition breaking about graffiti is how modern artist didn’t simply mimic or copy what they saw. What’s groundbreaking is how they put their own style and flavor into the mix. “It’s amazing to me to see graffiti that’s popping up in Iran and to see things popping up in the Arab spring” Caleb exclaims. What fascinates Neelon even more is to imagine and begin seeing the areas of the world that have not produced or expressed themselves as of yet through graffiti. When they do, he believes that, “a huge talent pool will open up,” Stories from the canvas may continue for years and years to come. If books get burned and people lose record and memory of many events, art in a public eye may always find bold methods of getting exposed.
In the U.S. and across the globe we live in a society full of merchandise. It is legal to advertise products, promote what they do and how much they cost All of these efforts are made to influence people to take some kind of action. Is that a fair statement? If so, what would happen if every ad could be replaced with a work of art that told a story? Until that day comes, we just have our creative imaginations. We’ll see what the future holds for the courageous.