Saturday, March 8, 2008

How do you spell Graffiti? A-R-T-C-R-I-M-E

Have a Heart - Sidewalk graffiti
When we lived in Western Massachusetts, we often took the train from Amherst into Boston or New York City. The trains were nice, the Berkshire scenery stunning and we always had a good time. I noted early on that a sign we were leaving the countryside to enter urbana would be when I began to see graffiti tags. They would begin small with maybe a word or some random letters and then grow in magnitude and quantity until the sides of the cement retaining walls would be covered in complex renegade art work as we pulled into the station. Sometimes the train cars themselves would be tagged. Most of the New Englanders that I knew hated it. They referred to it as "Art Crime" and didn't consider it to be "real art" decrying its aspects of illegality, incoherence, and nonstandard presentation. However, I enjoy it and believe that it speaks a real subversive cultural message from the streets.

Graffiti is the plural form of the Italian word grafficar. We know about legendary graffiti artists such as Basquiat, who tagged his creations with "SAMO" and whose works were collected by the likes of Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel... and today, the elusive Banksy from London, whose highly sought-after work is the rage in cities around the world. Serious graffiti artists such as these have helped redefine creativity altogether in an urban context. (If you are an email subscriber to this blog, you'll want to return to the web site to see the video above about Banksy.)

It's hard to know whether this stencil graffiti in my former Oakland neighborhood was made by Banksy or by a Banksy-wannabe:

There are various forms of graffiti. One of the simplest forms is that of individual markings such as slogans, slurs, or political statements. Examples of this type of graffiti commonly are found in bathrooms or on exterior surfaces, and this graffiti is usually handwritten. Another simple form is that of the tag which is a fancy, scribble-like writing of one's name or nick-name. That is, tag signifies one's name or nick-name.Whenever I have my camera with me, I take shots of interesting graffiti that I see here in the San Francisco area:
San Francisco of HWY. 80W

The origins of graffiti go back to the beginnings of human, societal living. Graffiti has been found on ancient, Egyptian monuments, and on the walls of ruins in Pompeii. In plural, grafficar signifies drawings, markings, patterns, scribbles, or messages that are painted, written, or carved on a wall or surface. Grafficar also signifies "to scratch" in reference to different wall writings ranging from "cave paintings", bathroom scribbles, or any message that is scratched on walls. In reference to present day graffiti, the definition is qualified by adding that graffiti is also any unsolicited marking on a private or public property that is usually considered to be vandalism.

Here are some of my more recent graffiti photographs. (Click images to enlarge:
Oakland, California

Railroad Car

Railroad Car II.

Oakland Railroad Yard

I am currently working on a series of Giclée prints that incorporate elements of my digitally enhanced graffiti photography. Interested parties may leave a comment here and I will get back with you via email regarding pricing and shipping options. (Your comment will remain unpublished.) These are the limited edition prints that are now available in a 13" x 19" format printed on archival quality paper with archival inks with prices beginning at $50:

City Shark

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This is my latest mixed media mosaic.
Parapets and Battlements

Parapets and Battlements
House detail- Parapets and Battlements

Photography by Stacy Alexander
copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

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