Saturday, July 23, 2011

Graffiti Update: Then and Now

A couple of days ago The New York Times reported an increase in graffiti across the nation (slide show here). The increase is particularly noticeable in smaller cities that hadn’t had graffiti before:
“It’s popped up all of a sudden in the last six months,” said Tim Sandrell, the owner of Safari Adventures in Hair in Florence. “I’ve been downtown for 10 years, and I’m really disappointed that we are seeing this kind of activity. We have a beautiful city and an historic city, and it’s really upsetting to me seeing this going on.”
I wonder about graffiti on freight cars, which travel everywhere, and live nowhere. Is that on the rise too?
In Portland, officials said taggers from other communities were defacing their property. “We’re arresting more people from out of town,” said Marcia Dennis, the city’s graffiti abatement coordinator. “For every one we get cleaned up, something else takes its place.”
Why’s this happening?
“It’s because of the pop culture,” said Ramona Findley, a Los Angeles police detective who heads the department’s graffiti task force. “It’s very interesting; with your violent crime going down, it seems like your mischievous crime is going up. The art world has accepted it. People make money from graffiti T-shirts. I was in Wal-Mart on Easter, and I saw graffiti Easter eggs.”
And in the department of Get a Clue:
Several officials said they were concerned the graffiti had extended beyond gang markers to others who consider more of their community a canvas. “The areas where we’ve seen the biggest increase are areas where we haven’t had a problem before,” said Mr. Racs of the Los Angeles beautification office. “It’s not gangs. It’s primarily just taggers. They are just cruising around on their skateboards.”
Umm, err, guys it’s gone waaaay beyond gang markers since, well, since spray cans and magic markers and Taki 181. Speaking of whom…

Viewed in some circles as an American art form on a par with jazz and Abstract Expressionism and in others as vandalism, pure and simple, the movement has gained momentum ever since and has spread around the world.

Its pioneer, meanwhile, has been out of sight, absent from the celebrations and exhibitions of old-school graffiti now taking place with increasing regularity. But on Thursday night at a signing party for “The History of American Graffiti,” an ambitious new survey of the movement written by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon and published this spring by HarperCollins, a short Greek-American man named Demetrius, now 57, with glasses and a bush of salt-and-pepper hair, arrived, took up a marker and began to sign his name again, this time legally, on frontispieces of the books.
And Taki says he got the idea for JULIO 124, “Whose identity now seems to be lost to history.”

So, who’s Julio? Remember that Paul Simon song, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”? It’s about two law breakin’ kids, but the law’s never specified. Could they be vandals?

Story at 11.

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