So what inspired you to do this work?
Well, I stopped in to see the MOCA show on graffiti artist, which I thought would be great. The show was truly amazing showing the history of graffiti rising from tagging to block fill-ins to pieces. Before I saw the show though, the LAPD were literally swarming the exhibition to try to keep away other aspiring graffiti artists from being “inflicted” or some other paranoia. That’s when I realized how crazy the LAPD had become onto this new rising art form.
So why did you choose Revok as the theme?
Well the LAPD actually went after REVOK, who was one of the head artists in the show. The weird thing is they arrested him over one of his legal murals, so I was floored that the LAPD had overstepped the boundaries. Additionally, the bond on the case was $320,000 or more than a serial killer bond!? How is painting on cement as bad as killing people.
So what does the right side say?
I did this in “graffiti” style. Since I don’t do graffiti, its not true to the style. However, in graffiti you can pay tributes to artists fallen in your own style or a close copy of their style. Originally, I was trying to copy one of REVOK’s masterpieces, but it proved too difficult to execute well. (He’s been painting for decades, so no surprise there). You can faintly make out the original outline beneath the final lettering.
What is bombing in graffiti?
This is the attempt to literally bomb the area with as much of your tags or block fills as possible; to literally paint a huge section of the city. Sometimes if you can paint on every area in the city this becomes known as “city-wide”. On the subway, there was the attempt to do top-to-bottom, then whole cars and then whole trains!
Below is an outrageous crew doing a whole train during operating hours with people in the train. Totally illegal, but fun!
Why did LAPD get so extreme in their policing of graffiti?
Well, if you look at maybe 50% of graffiti is simply tagging and another 25% maybe in block fills, which to the untrained eye just look junky and fall into the “broken windows” theory. While only 25% of graffiti might be the really quality pieces that are obviously art.
Another problem is that police tend to see or label graffiti artists as gangs. They share a bit of the characteristics in that you have a crew and are only admitted after reaching a certain level of quality in your work, but they really are not into serious crime. Some artists do live on the edge, stealing their supplies, so there is a rough edge.
What is the “broken windows” theory?
It arose in the 1980s in New York City, which was one of the capitals of graffiti originally. There was a book written that said if one window was broken in a building, that would lead to more broken windows and eventually increase in crime as criminals felt “safe”. Graffiti was seen as falling into this category of creating more crime after it was placed, so hence the police priority in stopping any graffiti of happening at all under this theory.
Do you think the police action was appropriate in NYC?
There are two sides to the story. On one side Mayor Guiliani’s reform of the police led to dramatic drop in the crime rate, so jobs came back to NYC and people felt “safe” to live there again.
On the other side, the NYC government completely wiped out the subway graffiti culture and hindered the development of the arts. At one point the artists tried to approach the city to just paint one car to see how the public would react, but the police completely did not accept this.
How do graffiti artist see themselves?
I am theorizing here (as I don’t do graffiti), but they see themselves as taking on the advertising world. The advertisers are free to put as many obnoxious ads in the public eye under “paid” space. The irony is that the space is really for all the public, but the government only allows Madison Avenue to dominate.
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