Constitutie a Europei
The history of the underground art movement known by many names, most
commonly termed graffiti begins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during
the mid to late '60s and is rooted in bombing. The writers who are
credited with the first conscious bombing effort are CORNBREAD and
COOL EARL. They wrote their names all over the city gaining attention
from the community and local press.
It is unclear whether this concept
made its way to New York City via deliberate efforts or if was a
Shortly after CORNBREAD, the Washington Heights section of Manhattan
was giving birth to writers. In 1971 The New York Times published an
article on one of these writers. TAKI 183 was the alias of a kid from
Washington Heights. TAKI was the nick name for his given name
Demetrius and 183 was the number of the street where he lived.
employed as a foot messenger, so he was on the subway frequently and
took advantage of it, doing motion tags. The appearance of this
unusual name and numeral sparked public curiosity prompting the Times
article. He was by no means the first writer or even the first king.
He was however the first to be recognized outside the newly formed
subculture. Most widely credited as being one of the first writers of
significance is JULIO 204. FRANK 207 and JOE 136 were also early
On the streets of Brooklyn a movement was growing as well. Scores of
writers were active. FRIENDLY FREDDIE was an early Brooklyn writer to
gain fame. The subway system proved to be a line of communication and
a unifying element for all these separate movements. People in all the
five broughs became aware of each others efforts. This established the
foundation of interbrough competition.
Writing started moving from the streets to the subways and quickly
became competitive. At this point writing consisted of mostly tags and
the goal was to have as many as possible. Writers would ride the
trains hitting as many subway cars as possible. It wasn't long before
writers discovered that in a train yard or lay up they could hit many
more subway cars in much less time and with less chance of getting
caught. The concept and method of bombing had been established.
After a while there were so many people writing so much that writers
needed a new way to gain fame. The first way was to make your tag
unique. Many script and calligraphic styles were developed. Writers
enhanced their tags with flourishes, stars and other designs. Some
designs were strictly for visual appeal while others had meaning.
instance, crowns were used by writers who proclaimed themselves king.
Probably the most famous tag in the culture's history was STAY HIGH
149. He used a smoking joint as the cross bar for his "H" and a stick
figure from the television series The Saint.
The next development was scale. Writers started to render their tags
in larger scale. The standard nozzle width of a spray paint can is
narrow so these larger tags while drawing more attention than a
standard tag, did not have much visual weight. Writers began to
increase the thickness of the letters and would also outline them with
an additional color. Writers discovered that caps from other aerosol
products could provide a larger width of spray.
This led to the
development of the masterpiece. It is difficult to say who did the
first masterpiece, but it is commonly credited to SUPER KOOL 223 of
the Bronx and WAP of Brooklyn. The thicker letters provided the
opportunity to further enhance the name. Writers decorated the
interior of the letters with what are termed "designs." First with
simple polka dots, later with crosshatches, stars, checkerboards.
Designs were limited only by an artist's imagination.
Writers eventually started to render these masterpieces the entire
height of the subway car (A first also credited to SUPER KOOL 223.).
These masterpieces were termed top-to bottoms. The additions of color
design and scale were dramatic advancements, but these works still
strongly resembled the tags on which they were based.
Some of the more
accomplished writers of this time were HONDO 1, JAPAN 1, MOSES 147,
SNAKE 131, LEE 163d, STAR 3, PHASE 2, PRO-SOUL, TRACY 168, LIL HAWK,
BARBARA 62, EVA 62, CAY 161, JUNIOR 161 and STAY HIGH 149.
The competitive atmosphere led to the development of actual styles
which would depart from the tag styled pieces. Broadway style was
introduced by Philadelphia's TOPCAT 126. These letters would evolve in
to block letters, leaning letters, and block busters.
PHASE 2 later
developed Softie letters , more commonly refered to as Bubble letters.
Bubble letters and Broadway style were the earliest forms of actual
pieces and therefore the foundation of many styles. Soon arrows,
curls, connections and twists adorned letters. These additions became
increasing complex and would become the basis for Mechanical or Wild
The combination of PHASE's work and competition from other style
masters like RIFF 140 and PEL furthered the development. RIFF is noted
as being an early catalyst in what is termed style wars. RIFF would
take ideas from other writers and improve upon them and take them to
another level. Writers like FLINT 707 and PISTOL made major
contributions in development of three dimentional lettering adding
depth to the masterpiece, which became standards for generations to
This early period of creativity did not go unrecognized. Hugo Martinez
a sociology major at City College took notice of the legitimate
artistic potential of this generation. Martinez went on to found
United Graffiti Artists. UGA selected top subway artists from all
around the city and presented their work in the formal context of an
art gallery. UGA provided opportunities once inaccessible to these
artists. The Razor Gallery was a successful effort of Mr.
the artists he represented. PHASE 2, MICO, COCO 144, PISTOL, FLINT
707, BAMA, SNAKE, and STICH have been represented by Martinez.
A 1973 article in New York magazine by Richard Goldstein entitled "The
Graffiti Hit Parade" was also early public recognition of the artistic
potential of subway artists.
Around 1974 writers like TRACY 168, CLIFF 159, BLADE ONE created works
with scenery, illustrations and cartoon characters surrounding the
masterpieces. This formed the basis for the mural whole car. Earlier
ground breaking whole cars were produced by writers like AJ 161 and
THE PEAK 75-77
For the most part innovation in writing hit a plateau after 1974. All
the standards had been set and a new school was about to reap the
benefits of artistic foundations established by prior generations and
a city in the midst of a fiscal crisis. New York City was broke and
therefore the transit system was poorly maintained. This led to the
heaviest bombing in history.
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