Wide World Of Graffiti

From Vandals To Trend Setters...

There is no complete story for the graffiti world as there are thousands of participants in the past and
the present. We are students as much as leaders in this global movement, sharing our enthusiasm as we present this exhibit.

Graffiti–the act of writing on walls–is an old practice traced back centuries to churches in England, visitors' names in the catacombs in Paris, and lewd jokes in Pompeii. Humans have a need to leave public messages, always have and always will. The act of writing on walls and in public places is empowering, intoxicating, and liberating. It’s a sneaky and radical act even when it’s not political. For many, it’s a fleeting one-time act of rebellion or of affirmation. It's easy to comprehend that if adults have been writing on walls, kids and teenagers will eventually want to do the same. So, they did, and boy did they. 

This exhibition celebrates the graffiti of our lifetime, the type of graffiti that has become a global movement and culture started by American children and teenagers. Style writing or just plain writing is what we call it from within the movement. Today, writing can be found in just about every corner of the globe, from Helsinki and Berlin to Lima, Melbourne, and Miami. Cities have their own indigenous styles and passionate practitioners, working daily to be seen and heard. Social media carries the names beyond the national barriers, but it wasn’t always that way. The current movement has a birthplace; it has legends, heroes, pioneers, and diehards, as well as hundreds that push it forward into the mainstream today. 

Two cities can claim bragging rights to the birth of this new graffiti movement: Philadelphia and New York City. In the late 1960s both cities were home to teenagers who saw public walls and trains as a perfectly natural and acceptable place to sign their names, breaking the law but adding a new spin on the typical gang graffiti that was already present in the streets. These teenagers were bold, adventurous, and sought fame and recognition from their friends.

The global expansion of New York City’s graffiti style caused a stir in just about every city it appeared in. Trains and walls were covered, spray paint was stolen from shops, teenagers adopted the new cultural import, and adults had a hard time accepting it, leading to strict laws, arrests, and severe punishments. Of course, the writers suffered but they also adapted, innovated, and changed to thrive and survive. Writers plotted and transformed the culture to their favor. Some took to graphic design, tattoo art, fashion design, and murals, while others turned to hidden walls or freight trains to pursue the writing tradition, and a few continued to paint trains accepting the risk of more severe penalties. These artists influenced the world and continue to impact popular culture today. This is a small part of the story. Welcome.

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