Graffiti evolved from the actions of one man, “Tiki 183.” In the 1960s, tiki 183 would spray paint his name everywhere he visited, working as a messenger New York City, Tiki 183 really got around. Soon other people began to do the same, and thus “tagging” was born. Trains became a popular target for graffiti artists. The notion that the tag would carry the artist from coast to coast was a draw to tempting to ignore.
As time moved forward, so did graffiti. Some gangs began claiming territory with gang tags but something even more amazing began to occur, graffiti began to be seen as art. Soon artists began to emerge, like Riff 170, who began bringing pop culture into graffiti. Today, NYC’s walls and subways are covered with some work that can only be described as transcendent.
The fact that graffiti appears on surfaces not owned by the artist is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the art form. Some argue that in some cases the graffiti improves the area, but if found in a gated community, it is most assuredly going to be painted over immediately after a vandalism report is filed. Gang graffiti is considered a problem in towns across the country. Some cities have graffiti hot lines for good citizens to call and report the offending marks.
Yet, there is something universal about graffiti, something that is found in the uniqueness of each writer’s (graffiti artist) mark, in the colors, in the lines, there is symbolism. There is a bit of the artists soul. We see their pain, their joy and we understand. Graffiti is much, much more than a name.