Visual Black Culture

This essay has a total of 2626 words and 11 pages.

visual black culture



Discrimination against African Americans within the United States has been a recognised problem for decades. Many were forced into sub standard accommodation in areas of cities, which came to be known as ghettos during the first, half of the twentieth century. Within the ghettos the African American community became a segregated underclass. The poverty experienced by the black community was amplified by the discrimination in employment, the better jobs being reserved for white workers. More recently, during the 70s and 80s, campaigns have been set up to end the segregation of the black community. Although the majority of white community agrees with the principal of these campaigns, many still have problems with the practical implications. The result is that urban segregation in the United States is still a serious problem.
In the early 80s the United States got pretty rich, young people were getting more successful and women were making it in business more than ever before. Changes like this were obviously being picked up on by the art world. New, or ‘neo’ expressionism was beginning to appear and work to do with age, gender and ethnic background was becoming more and more popular. The art world imitated the financial world and started to charge huge prices for the work of big name artists. At this time not just artists were celebrities some gallery owners and dealers were getting as much praise such as Mary Boone. The most interesting thing to come out of the period was the way that work that was post-modern was becoming more recognised. That is at least from the point of view of the gallery.
It is thought that the first writer in New York, if not the first to get noticed, was TAKI 183. He was called so as he lived on 183rd street and his real name was Dimitrius, the Greek name for which Taki is a nickname. His name appeared so regularly because he had a job as a messenger and this meant that he had to ride the subway a lot. So he wrote his name or ‘tag’ on most of the trains and stations. This inspired a whole load of other kids to do the same and after an article in The New York Times hundreds of kids wanted their name on the subway cars as well. The effect was snowballing and tags were everywhere. Credit started to be given only to those who could tag somewhere that was hard to reach as a tag would stand alone rather than be crowded by others.
Although most graffiti was seen in the seventies and eighties it did in fact start in the late sixties. New York kids started to write their names on the walls, doors and bins and anywhere else they could. Like TAKI 183 they did not use their real names, but instead used psudonomes. This meant that only a select few would know who they were. Graffiti was also used as territorial message amongst gangs who want to claim an area as their own. It only really became an art form when people had to develop their tags to stand out from those of the masses. The vandal was becoming an artist. Tags of peoples names were becoming logos. The lettering was played around with so it would become easily recognizable to other writers. After some time colour was added and as it was the size or the paintings grew. Style became as important as the words, which continued to grow until such masterpieces filled entire walls or train carriages. The ‘top to bottom whole car’ is an entire carriage of a train painted from roof to wheels, including walls and doors. This is almost always the greatest achievement for a writer although some gangs or ‘crews’ have completed whole trains.
In the eighties graffiti swayed towards mainstream fine art but never went that far and stayed a culture rather than a genre. These days it is in every city in the world.
A great deal of people do not understand the depth of what is behind graffiti. Although graffiti is relatively young in most people’s eyes, it is really no different from cave man paintings. These were made on the walls of the caves using blood or ash. These works were of events that were relevant to their times. The Romans painted frescos on whole walls as a source of decoration. Monks in Italy left writings on walls for other monks. Calligraphy and the over usage of serifs in the script hid these secret messages. This meant that the general population if they could read at all would not understand these messages. These monks had created a beautiful, yet difficult to understand, style of writing. Words becoming art, This may sound familiar.
Wildstyle is extremely similar, in that it is rare for a non-writer, or at least somebody who is not into the scene, to be able to read a well put together piece done in wildstyle. “The highly evolved and complex wildstyle, energetic interlocking construction of letters and arrows and other forms that signify movement and direction” . Not all writers enjoy wildstyle writing, as it can be very hard to read. Strangely enough that is the reason it is loved by others. It is like a code that only they understand, like being part of secret club.
Older artists would often take a new writer or ‘toy’ under their wing. The new apprentice would get to do jobs like filling in blocks of colour, or even just stand as a look out. In return they would be taught new skills and different styles of lettering. They would also get to tag below the piece, which would give them credit with fellow young writers. Some say you can not just learn wildstyle in the same way a musician must learn to read music before they can use there own improvisation. “According to Dez, there is no easy way to learn the complicated wildstyle and no substitute for time, ‘when you first start up and a writer gives you a style, it ain’t easy to do it, so it be better to start from throw ups to straight letter to semi-wildstyle to wildstyle, then you can do anything you want after that. Rather than try to make you first piece a burner and it looks wak, just work your way up the trains ain’t goin nowhere’” .
Sometimes small wars break out between writers when two or more artists will strive to be the best on a particular train line. Whoever gets his or her name up on the trains the most will win the territory. A writer who is up that much is known as a king of that train line. It is better and more respected by other artists to get your name up on train carriages all over the line and still maintain good quality and style. A true king though, must write all over a line. However good they may be in artistic skill if he only does a couple of great pieces they will be forgotten quickly if they are few in numbers. “A king is a writer that everyone wants to write with or fight with” .
The writers don’t use their real names. They make up names that are sometimes jokes or are insults to their enemies or the law. They can also have a name handed down to them from a writer who may want to retire, and has taught them their style. That way they get a good name and the old writer gets his name to continue to ride the train lines.
To get more pieces of graffiti up writers would often unite and form crews of artists; crazy inside artists(CIA) the public artists(TPA) and the magnificent team(TMT). Although most of the members of such crews were closely linked together, many would belong to two or even more. This is why there are sometimes many initials on one piece of work. New younger writers would often wr

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