The graffiti art of the 1970’s has made one of the biggest historical impacts on the visual arts. It has impacted and changed fashion, style, graphic design and even marketing and promotion used in advertising. Graffiti is a style of art and painting done with cans of spray paint. Surprisingly Its origin is the urban subways of new york city and it is still one of the major aspects that helped create the hip hop culture.
Graffiti was very unique for so many reasons. It is the only visual art form known to be created with no “physical touch”. Meaning the hands and fingers don’t touch the surface that the artwork is designed and painted on. The actual art is done with spray paint, held from a short distance of the surface, which means the artist had to have an accurate aim and there own perfect technique in shaping and designing the actual art. Another thing that makes this style of visual art so unique is that ninety percent of it was done outside in public. You could easily find graffiti on busses, trains, buildings, and walls. You not only understood the look and artwork of hip hop graffiti, you also understood that you were in a hip hop culture environment. Last but not least, and sadly, it is still the only art form that you can get arrested for doing. As beautiful and fascinating as it is, it is illegal to spray graffiti art on the subway trains and public buildings. It just goes to show the love these artists had for this craft, they were willing to take the risk of being arrested just to perform and display their artwork.
In many eyes this was not just a new form of self expression, but it was the most artistic form of self expression that the hip hop culture had to offer. Each artist has their own individual style, from the style of letters, to human and non human drawn characters, to the ways they blended different colors of paint on the walls. This art form was about not only expressing yourself, but also building a reputation as one of the top graffiti artists. All graffiti artist had their own special signature which at the time was called tags. Your tag was the signature “nick name” for your graffiti artwork if you were a graffiti artist. The tags was how these artists made a name for their selves and got recognition in the urban communities.
To this day, graffiti can be seen on Hip Hop album covers, posters, t-shirts, and flyers. It is consistently used in graphic design art that is used to promote hip hop concerts, albums, and other hip hop events. It is incorporated into our technology through graphic design. Hip Hop music changes but the graffiti never does! Even air brush graffiti is an extension to the original graffiti that was done with spray cans. Air brush graffiti can still be seen on fashion today.
Overall, hip hop graffiti art told a short story of an urban lifestyle and the hip hop culture. Painted walls of hip hop ciphers rapping, painted graffiti of break dancers dancing, and even painted graffiti of neighborhood kids rolling dice in the alley. This was more than visual art, it was also visual story telling. New york subways and walls tagged with graffiti will always be looked at as landmarks of the birthplace that originated and elevated the “graffiti art” in the urban community.