Not only was graffiti writing an invention of kids, but they also created and developed it in the face of adults’ laws, arrests, beatings, and organized removal efforts. No other art movement in human history has so thoroughly confounded the deeply held concepts of public and private property; no other art movement has so thoroughly made itself a public-policy issue. Long before it developed into an art, graffiti was—and remains—a crime. To make the work that appears in this book, artists risked imprisonment and physical injury. And nearly every single artwork featured in this book, whether in New York City or elsewhere, has been destroyed.
Graffiti certaintly benefited from its arranged marriage with hip-hop as one of its four elements (DJ, please cue the debate about whether graffiti is a part of hip-hop, and loop it endlessly), but that association also caused one of graffiti’s great social accomplishments—one it made independent of the other elements of hip-hop—to go largely overlooked. While viewers saw rappers DJs, and break dancers in person, they did not often see graffiti writers—only their work. Rapping, DJing, and break dancing were unquestionably the creation of black and latino youths, so faceless pseudonyms of graffiti writing were popularly assumed to be the same. As legendary graffiti writer T-KID 170 bluntly puts it, ‘It’s a myth that all writers were black or Hispanic. It’s bullshit. The truth of the matter is that graffiti was multiracial. Black, Hispanic, white—you didn’t care, and the guys who did it came in all colors.’
-THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI-
(ROGER GASTMAN AND CALEB NEELON)
The images i have included are intended to express the continuous layering that graffiti inhabited areas contain. Their depth traces the lives of those that write in them.