Graffiti are something that I have always found interesting and mysterious. Who is the artist? What message was he trying to get across? Where is he now? Why did he paint the things he did? This interest and wonder led me to choose graffiti as my research topic. I have always wanted to know more about this more modern art form, and about one of the most well known graffiti artists: Banksy. I knew this would be a great opportunity to learn more about something I find fascinating, and it is a topic I would enjoy researching.
To start generally, graffiti are any visual marking on a public space. This can be on buildings, roads, sidewalks, benches, or any other object that is owned privately and is in the public eye. The artist can use any different medium he wants, but the most commonly used is spray paint (Graffiti Artist). A recent study of Seattle graffiti types found that tagging- when the artist writes their name, signature, or initials- made up 80% of the city’s graffiti; gang, 15%; political, 3%; hateful, 1%; and art, 1% (Bio).
Graffiti are very common in big cities, as opposed to smaller, more rural towns. And in big cities, gangs are a typical part of life. Gangs often use graffiti as a way to communicate. They can serve as visual signals to other gangs or gang members of whose “territory” they are in, or any other messages that want to be shown (Graffiti Artist). But not all graffiti are done by gangs. Some graffiti are done by everyday people just trying to communicate with the public, and are trying to expose more people to art. Some artists have said that they want to “involve people in the creation of art and make their work public,” and what better way to do that than to put it on a building millions of people walk past everyday. There is sometimes a bit of competition between these artists, as they see who can cover the most space, create the best art, and do the most of it. By doing these things, they can earn credibility among other graffiti artists. But as cool as graffiti may be, it is still illegal, and can result in heavy fines, community service, or even jail time if the artist is caught (Bio).
Graffiti, however, is not as modern as some may think. Sociologists have determined that the roots of graffiti go as far back as cave man times, when the people would depict their hunts and kills on the walls of the caves they lived in (Bio). Graffiti have also been found on ancient Egyptian monuments, and on walls in ancient Pompeii (Key Events). More recently though, graffiti began appearing in the late 1960s in cities like New York City and Philadelphia. In the 1970s, graffiti moved from just buildings and started to include subways specifically (Graffiti). With subways being underground, it was easy to do the work and not get caught, and was a highly traveled area, so the artists knew that many people would see their work there. At this time, something called graffiti “kings” came into existence. ...