Ephemerality and Persistence, pt. 1

Despite the persistence of paint on the walls of the caves at Altamira and Lascaux—which are over 20,000 years old—and the writing on the walls of Pompeii, graffiti is a largely ephemeral affair. The easiest surfaces to mark (sandstone, for example) are the naturally the quickest to decay. Spraypaint fades due to sunlight, automobile exhaust, […]

Graffiti Lexicon

(Note: This Glossary will expand and contract as the project continues. Check back for updates.) Cholo Writing – Gang-related writing, largely developed in and around Los Angeles by Latinos in the mid-Twentieth Century. Cholo writing continues today in much the same form as earlier epochs. Guerilla Marketing – drawings, paintings, leaflets, wheat-pastes, and other materials […]

Toward a Graffiti Lexicon, part 1

“Can this have been quasi-intentional, a concerted effort to obliterate meaning by scrawling graffiti on one of the theater’s most profound texts?”[1] The above quote comes from a review of Young Jean Park’s play Lear! — a sort of reworking or reimagining of the Shakespeare play — and gives a window into the common usage […]

On the need for an expanded lexicon

I’ve been writing and thinking about graffiti for over five years and I’ve repeatedly run up against the failure of language to capture the nuances of the concept. Graffiti, if we believe the dictionary, refers to “writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.”[1] This […]

Broken Windows, pt. 1

Rogan Furguson of The Great Whatsit provides a nice introduction to the Broken-Window Theory, and I couldn’t pass up making a few comments. The Broken-Window theory comes from a 1982 Atlantic Monthly article by George Kelling and James Wilson—conveniently titled “Broken Windows“—and is commonly used to initiate or toughen legal penalties for graffiti writing, loitering, […]