The History of Grafitti

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Trivial Diversions

The History of Grafitti

The History of Grafitti

Graffiti and street art have grown from ragtag groups of kids marking their territory into a respected form of art that’s shown in galleries across the world. How did graffiti make this amazing transformation? Here is the story of the history of graffiti.

  1. There are a few explanations of how graffiti got its start. One story says that Cornbread was the first artist. He was a high school student from Philadelphia who started to tag city walls in 1967 to get the attention of a girl. Other people suggest that it began on subway cars in New York City.
  2. Taki 183 was one of the first people to tag his name in New York City. As a bike messenger, he traveled the city would use a marker to leave his name on subways. Kids started to copy him and tagging was born. It became a competition to get your name in as many places as possible (“get up”).
  3. In the 1970s, the style wars exploded graffiti into the public sphere as artists tried to get famous by creating bigger and more elaborate pieces on walls and subway stations. The culture of graffiti was born here, when artists would gather together, mentor each other, and form crews to collaborate.
  4. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary about graffiti that focuses on Thierry Guetta, but in the movie there is no explanation of why so many graffiti artists were hanging out with him. It turns out that he owns a lot of property and let artists paint on his wall space.
  5. While the modern form of graffiti got its start in the 70s, images and writing on walls and buildings has been around since Ancient Greece and Rome. Much of the earliest graffiti was quite explicit and focused around sex.
  6. Most laws against graffiti are local, but the law that prohibits railroad vandalism is national.
  7. Graffiti, along with DJing, emceeing, and break dancing, are considered the four elements of hip hop.
  8. The word graffiti comes from the Italian graffiare, “to scratch.”
  9. Someone who’s new to graffiti is called a “toy.”
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