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THE FIRE DOWN BELOW 1980 (Pt 1.)

Discussion in 'Third Rail' started by OMARNYCAKASW1, Apr 21, 2002.

  1. OMARNYCAKASW1

    OMARNYCAKASW1 12oz Senior Member

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    THE FIRE DOWN BELOW 1980 (Pt 1.)

    Discussion started by OMARNYCAKASW1 - Apr 21, 2002

    From the Village Voice Dec.24,1980
    In Praise Of Graffiti
    THE FIRE DOWN BELOW

    By Richard Goldstein.
    John Lindsay hated graffiti, He vowed to wipe it off the face of the IRT, and allocated $10 million to its obliteration, But the application of vast resources is no match for discipline and determination, as we should have learned in Vietnam. Graffiti survived Lindsay's defoliation plan, and it has thrived on every subsequent attempt to curb its spread. In 1973, there may have been a few hundred ghetto kids writing in a few definable styles. Now thousands call themselves "writers." They come from every social stratum and range in age from nine to 25. Their signatures-called "tags" -have transformed the subway into what the Times, calls "some godawful forest." And now that the perpetrators have moved above ground, trucks and elevators, monuments and vacant walls look as if they have suddenly sprouted vines. It is, says Claes Oldenberg, "a big bouquet from Latin America." It is, says Richard Ravitch of the MTA, "a symbol that we have lost control."
    The great debate over graffiti, and what ought to be done about it rests on the assumption that its intention is to defile. "It's the feeling that an antisocial element has been in the system and had its way," says an MTA spokesman, defending his department's annual $6,5 million anti graffiti budget-money, after all, that might otherwise be used for repairs. The Times has rounded up the usual assortment of social workers and shrinks to bolster its contention that graffiti is "an effort to deal with deep feelings of fear by seeking out an experience that involves facing that fear." Psychologists who treat these incipient felons "believe their patients, virtually all of whom have less-than-perfect relationships with their fathers, are intent on defacing his car, the car of authority," The casual rider might conclude that perp and victim share an inability to control the danger in their lives. Says the indefatigable Ali, who, like many graffiti writers, has a ready capacity to articulate the ideas behind his work: 'Graffiti takes away the placenta and reminds people of how violent the subway is. The real vandalism is what you'd see if you scraped the windows clean." The debate over graffiti has been conducted by people who are unwilling to decipher the message it conveys. Once you learn to interpret the medium, it becomes clear that no single intention is involved. Some kids do write to deface- to 'bomb' a car, as they say; but the wholesale obstruction of windows and maps is a sure way to perpetuate your status as a novice, what serious writers call 'a toy.' Entering a graffiti zone-and these now include schoolyards, stairwells, and selected intersections-is like reading a newspaper. A writer can tell who has been there, which parts of the city are represented, how long since the site has been buffed, and whether there are any startling innovations- "isms" he wishes to incorporate. This communicative function, says Ali, puts graffiti in "the great tradition" of African storytelling- whether or not you grew up close to your dad.
    But tagging is only the most elementary form of graffiti, and the insides of cars are a practice zone in which aspiring writers fashion the techniques they will need to do "a piece" -i.e. masterpiece. The idea is to impose yourself on an entire car, to move from "a throw-up" to the carefully delineated blend of tints and lines graffiti writers call "a fade." This riotous effect can be achieved on the car while the paint is wet, or in midair, when a writer sprays two cans at once to see the fade as it forms in the mist. From the time a surface is sighted- usually a train laid up on the center track -it can take 12 hours to complete a piece. Often working from sketches prepared in advance, a writer and his "crew" may spend a weekend in tunnel light, drinking, smoking, listening to the radio, Most writers return with cameras to document their work, since the TA's buffing machines can reduce the most ambitious effort to a swampy blur, In graffiti, the dimensions of space and time are beyond control, All things must pass, usually within a month, There are two ways to look at this stuff, from the platform, mammoth letters roll by like frames in a stereopticon, Seen a block from the el, bands of color undulate like the tail of a kite, At that speed and distance, one becomes aware of how important motion is to the spirit of graffiti, A willful transformation occurs as the ravished train is forced to boogie. The harder trick is to throw something up that looks good standing still.
    Among writers, Lee is regarded as a master of freehand rendering, perhaps the first to execute a top-to-bottom, full-car design. But on the Lower East Side, where some graffiti afficionados are too young to frequent the subways, Lee is regarded as a prophetic He works anonymously, in the dead of night, covering handball courts with apocalyptic messages and monumental imagery .If you want to glimpse the future of this form, run right down to the playground on Madison Street, off Clinton. A bilious dragon awaits you, hovering over a skyline on the verge of eruption. Talk about Gully Jimson: This vision was executed by a teenager with a ladder and a little paint.
    Iconography has figured in graffiti since the early '70s, when Stay High pilfered that stick figure logo from The Saint and appended it to his tag, But a growing segment of this movement would like to see graffiti abandon representation for an open assault of color, a fauvism-on-wheels, Futura 2000, who took his name from a Ford, serves up a fade that resembles cosmic soup, Within this Day-Glo cauldron, triangles glide by --the edges carefully defined with the aid of masking tape-and clusters of circles that clearly suggest Kandinsky, perhaps because that's where Futura first encountered these shapes.

    Graffiti draws from every form of pictorial information that has entered the ghetto over the past 20 years: billboards, supergraphics, wall murals, underground comics, and custom car design, Sci-fi illustration-especially the lurid romanticism of Frank Frazetta and Vaughan Bode-was an early source of inspiration, but now that the most ambitious writers are taking classes in drafting and going to museums, there is a deliberate attempt to work in references to artists who command respect, Lost to the buffers now is Blade's rendition of Edward Munch's scream, and Fred's assemblage of Campbell's soup cans. It is possible to imagine a car decked out to resemble something Jackson Pollack dreamt (although, to accomplish that, a writer would have to overcome the traditional graffiti disdain for drips. Or figures out of Klee riding shotgun on the IRT. These artists share with graffiti an interest in what Kandinsky called 'the effect of inner harmony" in a childish line.
    A writer appropriates an image made famous by an artist the way he incorporates another writer's line. It's all out there, like cans of paint waiting to be "racked." But image-theft is not the only reason writers raid the museums. A subway. Munch raises the heady possibility that art can happen anywhere. Like conceptual art and Pop, graffiti questions the context in which art is appreciated. It renews the dream of work for its own sake, the idea of creation as a democratic process-in short, radical humanism. Ali speaks of "taking responsibility for your environment" by creating a surface on a subway train. "The production of art," wrote Jean Dubuffet in 1941, 'can only be conceived as individual, personal, and done by all." There's a lot of positive mythology floating around what some writers call

    Continued on page 58
     
    OMARNYCAKASW1 - Rank: 12oz Senior Member - Messages:
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  2. cover .

    cover . Guest

    cover . - Replied Apr 23, 2002

    hmm.. not exactly as exciting as the subway lives thingie.

    but its all good nonetheless.

    bump.
     
  3. 23578

    23578 12oz Elite Member

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    23578 - Replied Apr 23, 2002

    'two cans at once' cool.
     
    23578 - Rank: 12oz Elite Member - Messages:
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