The term Graffiti comes from
the Italian word graffio which means
“a scratch”.

It can serve as a medium for
creating awareness by making public statements about art, individuality, politics,
and empowerment while simultaneously be associated with destruction in the form
of vandalism.

While many claim this type
of street art to be Urban Art Graffiti has been around for thousands of years.
Be it in the form of

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Graffiti or the art of
writing and scribbling on the public property has been around for thousands of
years and across that span of time its raise the same questions we debate now-
is it art or just vandalism.

In the First Century BC
Romans regularly inscribed messages on public walls while miles away clans like
The Mayans and The Vikings were prolifically scratching drawings onto the
surfaces of their caves. And it wasn’t always a desruptive act. In Pompeii,
Italy, civilians regularly inscriped public walls with enchanted spells, prose
about unrequited love, political campaign slogans and even messages to
champion/lobby for their favourite Gladiators. Several prominent personalities
of that era including the Greek philosopher Plutarch retaliated, deeming
Graffiti rediculous and pointless but it wasn’t until the 5th Century
that the roots of the modern concept of vandalism were planted. At that time a German
barbaric tribe known as The Vandals swept through sacking and wrecking the city
of Rome but it wasn’t until Centuries later that the term Vandalism was
actually coined in an outcry against the unceremonious demolishing of Art in
the French Revolution. As a result the already frail status of Graffiti took a
nosedive and instead it became increasingly associated with premediated rebellion
and provocativeness, taking on its Vandalist label. That’s part of the reason
why today many graffiti artists stay undergroud. Some assume alternate
identities to avoid retribution from the local authorities while others do so
to establish comradely and make claim to territory.

 

CORNBREAD 1967  TAKI 187

 

Beginning with the tag of
1960s, a novel overlap of celebrity and anononimity hit the streets of New York
City and Philedelphia. Taggers used disguised labels to sign their works to
trace their movements around the city while often alluding to their origins and
the very illigality of graffiti making that forced it into the shadows also
added to its intrigue and growing base of followers. The question of space and
ownership plays an integral part in Graffiti’s history. It’s comtemporary
evolution has gone hand in hand with the counter culture scenes. While these
movements raised their anti-establishment voices, Graffiti artists likewise
challenged establised boundaries of public property. They’ve reclaimed subway
carts, billboards and even once went so far as to paint on an elephant in the
city zoo resulting to an arrest. Political movements too, have used wall
writing to visually spread their messages.

During World War II both the
Nazis party and resistence groups covered walls with propaganda. The now
demolished Berlin wall’s one sided Graffiti can be seen as a striking symbol of
repression v/s reletively unrestricted public access. As the counter cultural
movements associated with graffiti become mainstream, does graffiti too become
accepted? Since the creation of so called ‘Graffiti Unions’ in the 1970s and
the admission of select graffiti artists into art galleries a decade later,
graffiti has straddeled the line between the outside and the inside the
mainstream.  And the appropriation of
graffiti styles by marketers and typographers has made this definition even
more unclear. The once unlikely partnerships of graffiti artists with
traditional meuseums and brands have brought these artists out of the
underground and into the spotlight. Although graffiti is linked to destruction,
it is also the medium of unrestricted artistic expression. Today, the debate
about the boundry between defacing and beautifying continues. Meanwhile the
graffiti artists challenge the common consenses about the value of art and the
degree to which any place can be owned. Whether spraying, scrawling or
sratching, graffiti brings these questions of ownership, art and acceptibility
to the surface.

 

Graffiti was propelled from
the pits of oblivion and brought into light for the inquisitive eyes of the
world to see it transform into the revolution it is today, during the late 1960s,
by a young American man named Darryl McCray, commonly known as Cornbread in the
Graffiti community.

 

Cornbread, in the initial
stages of his career, spray painted the walls of the streets in Philadelphia to
capture the attention of his classmate named Cynthia. While he did not quite
succeed in gaining the intented’s attention, the unassuming teen managed to get
several heads turned to glance at his writings on the wall acompanied by his,
by then perfected, signature which was his name Cornbread. His later works
revolved around social issues which consisted of graffiti writing on social
issues like police brutality towards the minor communities in America, race
discrimination and several other untalked about problems that existed during
his time and are still around. Still a reckless teen at heart, Cornbread would
channel his rebellious streak to use unexpected canvas structures for his
graffiti writing. His most famous stunts include painting on an elephant at the
city zoo and the private jet of Micheal Jackson’s then band, Jackson 5. 

 

The works of Graffiti
artists and writers has always been reflective of the social issues faced
during their time that were protested against by these anonymous tag bearers
who had left their marks around the streets of their cities      

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