In the '90s, graffiti expanded to include the stenciled paintings, wheatpasted posters, and renegade sculptures of street art (an umbrella term that came into use around 2000). Again it was situated at a cultural nexus — this time punk stickering, skateboarding, and indie rock, which defined a generation of white hipster style. Graffiti artists of the '70s and '80s were mostly teens who moved on to other things in their 20s. Today the public face of street art is older, more white, more art-school-trained, nearly as at home in galleries as on the streets.
The best street art has imbued graffiti's signature graphic pyrotechnics with meaning. Fairey channeled his outlaw powers into posters that helped elect Barack Obama president. And British artist Banksy has turned McGee's civil-disobedience claim into a reality, and become one of the pre-eminent social critics of our era by, say, graffiting images of oases on the security wall dividing Israel from Palestine.
But it's all still about getting up more and bigger than everyone else. "It's pretty cool that there's people out there that say I'm a legend," Taki 183 says in the introduction to the book. "It's especially funny when the word gets around to my kids. Isn't that what we all hope for is some way, to have something in our back pocket that we're known for?"
>> PHOTO SLIDESHOW:Photos: American History of Graffiti <<
Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.
: Lifestyle Features
, Roger Gastman, Los Angeles, New York City, More