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Gusmano Cesaretti. STREET WRITERS. A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti.

STREET WRITERS. A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti. Gusmano Cesaretti. 1975.

The roots of the global graffiti movement lie in New York in the late 1960s. Over the years, the simple lettering first developed into simple, quick pieces and, by the early 1980s at the latest, into elaborate, mostly colorful masterpieces on the trains of the New York Subway. But early on, similar forms of namewriting also appeared in other regions of America.

Along with Philadelphia, for example, Los Angeles also looks back on an independent culture of writing names in public spaces. Thus, as early as 1975, photographer Gusmano Cesaretti published STREET WRITERS - A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti, a documentary-style booklet that paid attention to the regional phenomenon in L.A., capturing the cryptic letters and numbers in numerous black-and-white photographs.

The images were taken on a tour of Los Angeles, which Cesaretti undertook with Charles "Chaz" Bojórquez. "Chaz" was already active in the streets of the city since 1969 as a plaquito / writer and gradually enlightened the photographer about the meaning, origins and peculiarities of the so-called Cholo style. The style borrows calligraphic elements from Gothic writing and the mostly monochrome lettering are individual names or gang names, often associated with the street number, similar to New York Writing. The territorial aspect is prominent in Chicano graffiti and the names were originally applied with a brush, but then increasingly with spray can and marker.

In addition to introductory texts, the photo book includes various regional chapters, rough details about the location of the photographs, the creators, and the significance of their signatures. The form of namewriting, which originated independently of New York Graffiti, is reminiscent of the Pixação from São Paulo and still characterizes the cityscape and the graffiti style of the city after more than 40 years.

Text Sascha Blasche Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch

Craig Castleman. Getting Up. Subway Graffiti in New York

Getting Up. Subway Graffiti in New York - Craig Castleman, 1982

While teaching at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan in the late 1970s, Craig Castleman helped his students produce a booklet (NASTY STUFF) on their favourite subject: graffiti on the New York subway. Inspired by the work on this topic, which was new to him, Castleman spent the following years investigating the phenomenon more closely.

The result is his 1982 dissertation "Getting Up. Subway Graffiti in New York.".

Along with Andrea Nelli's "Graffiti a New York", this volume is one of the first ever scholarly publications on the subject. In nine comprehensive chapters, Castleman provides detailed insights into the history, motivations, experiences and approaches of New York's sprayers. In this way, he illuminates the system in which the writers move, which is often difficult for outsiders to comprehend. Not only are the various forms of graffiti analysed, but the hierarchies, rules and behaviour within the scene are also explained.

The antagonists, such as the MTA (Metro Transit Authority), police and politics, and their various approaches and projects for containment, are also found in Getting Up. In addition, Castleman introduces organisations such as NOGA (Nation of Graffiti Artists) and UGA (United Graffiti Artists), which tried to introduce writers to the art market with canvas works and gallery shows.

While in particular the European research literature on graffiti over- and misinterprets the phenomenon as a rebellious uprising of economically, socially and politically marginalised youth, Getting Up is considered a universally valid standard work on the subject even today due to its purely descriptive and analytical description of writing.

While the phenomenon gets romanticized particularly in European research by over- and misinterpreting graffiti as a rebellious uprising of economically, socially and politically marginalised youth, Getting Up is considered a universally valid standard work on the subject even today due to its purely descriptive and analytical description of writing.

            Text Sascha Blasche  Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch

Boulevard – On Trespassing and Culture No. 2 – INSTITUTION

Boulevard – On Trespassing and Culture   

No. 2 – INSTITUTION

Parallel to the art world's growing interest in graffiti, street art, and urban art, scholarly research on these fields has also increased steadily in recent years. While standard works can be found in specialized libraries, more in-depth texts and primary sources are often lacking for extensive research. These include rare exhibition catalogs, small editions of gray literature such as illustrated books and scene magazines, but also texts whose relevance has changed in the rapid development of the aforementioned subject areas.

The editors of "Boulevard" have addressed this issue for the first time in 2019 (No. 1 - CLASSICS). The magazine, which comes in the classic format of a daily newspaper, is divided into three chapters each: TALK, REPRINT and CASES. While the last section shows selected photo series, the second part consists of scientific texts that have already been published elsewhere, translated into English and often supplemented by a commentary by the authors. The TALK part functions as a cultural journal that refers to current events, publications, exhibitions and projects, but also includes interviews.

In the current issue (No. 2 - INSTITUTION) Katia Hermann and Pietro Rivasi discuss the challenges and possibilities of exhibitions on graffiti.

In addition to Ben Brohanszki and the Graffitimuseum, Jasper van Es and Good Guy Boris, who curated the groundbreaking #VIRALVANDALS exhibition in Eindhoven in 2017, also have their say. Newly published in the REPRINT section are texts by Lene ter Haar, Harald Hinz, Orestis Pangalos, Patrick Hagopian as well as Bernd Dollinger and Bettina Hünersdorf. CASES features photo series by Dunja Janković, Bill Daniel, Emanuel Roth and images by the Hamburg-based train writer RAGE.

            Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

KUNSTFORUM International Vol. 260, May-June 2019

KUNSTFORUM International Vol. 260, May-June 2019

In June 1982, KUNSTFORUM International devoted an entire volume to the subject of graffiti (vol. 50 "Wilde Bilder. Graffiti und Wandbilder"). At the time, the vague term encompassed both ancient commemorative writings, political murals, facade art, ironic slogans, and several other forms of partly illegal interventions in urban space. Classic graffiti writing, which has characterized the New York cityscape for a decade and has existed in similar forms in Philadelphia and Los Angeles since the 1960s, is mentioned rather casually with three photos and half a page of text. In the months that followed, however, Writing would be carried into Western societies worldwide through films and books and mature into a global movement.

After 37 years, graffiti is once again the overarching theme of the art magazine in May 2019.

But this time, what is meant by the title is more clearly defined: writing based on the New York model and, if applicable, art that emerges from it. Thus Writing is not lexically explained and a glossary of scene terms enclosed, but Larissa Kikol gathers big and small names of the scene and gives a status quo of graffiti in Central Europe.

From an art historical perspective, selected actors are introduced and their work is analyzed and classified. These include CLINT176 (Berlin), SAEIO (Paris), SUSIE (Berlin) and HAMS (Marseille). However, the cities of Berlin as a stylistic melting pot of the contemporary scene and Munich as a comprehensively documented example of early European work in the early 1980s are also portrayed.

A more comprehensive definition of the concept of graffiti (urban marketing and urban art) is covered in the text by Robert Kaltenhäuser and Georg Barringhaus.

In addition, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, RAP, 1UP and graffiti lawyer Dr. Patrick Gau, as well as MOSES & TAPS™ provide insight into their work in extensive interviews.

            Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

Jürgen Große. URBAN ART PHOTOGRAPHY

URBAN ART PHOTOGRAPHY - Jürgen Große, 2008

Today, Berlin is considered a world metropolis for graffiti, street art and urban art. While the late 1980s saw the end of the golden era in the graffiti mecca of New York, the fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in a new era in Europe. Less than ten years after motifs modeled primarily on those from overseas began to dominate the cityscape in Berlin, a new, related phenomenon began to take root. Witness and observer of the emerging Urban Art is Jürgen Große, who at that time has already been photographing art in public space for two decades. In addition to adbusting, sculptural works and often randomly appearing curiosities, he also documents the use of new stylistic tools such as stencils, stickers, posters and, above all, paint. These tools alter the formal language of the paintings, allowing them to be painted in previously inaccessible places and sometimes on a monumental scale.

Abb. 211-1 – 212-2 Idee Orion

The playing field of actors such as NOMAD, SWOON, BANKSY or Brad Downey are primarily the eastern districts of the capital, which offer more publicly accessible open spaces. But Große also explores construction sites, vacant buildings, "hidden places" and backyards, which are increasingly equal canvases for the work of AKIM, 6, SPAIR, ZAST, KRIPOE, LOST SOUL and IDEE. Meticulous location, month and year are added to each shot, so that even today a before and after comparison is possible.

Abb. 357 – 364 Zast, Atari, Bus126, Akim, Zast

Urban Art Photography is a unique documentation that accompanies the beginnings of an art form that is shaping the face of the city today as never before. Jürgen Große's imagery not only captures the works, but also always depicts the context of the urban space. This contemporary testimony allows a view of a Berlin of the 2000s that, like most of the works, no longer exists today.

            Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

AMSTERDAM ON TOUR. The early signs of Dutch graffiti.

AMSTERDAM ON TOUR. The early signs of Dutch graffiti. 2019.

When as a result of films and books such as „Subway Art“, „Wild Style!“ and „Style Wars“ the New York tradition of graffiti writing attracted worldwide attention and, above all, imitators in the early 1980s, so-called namewriting was a completely new phenomenon in many places.

Amsterdam, however, plays a special role in Europe in this respect. Although slogans, phrases and criticism on current political issues such as the expansion of the metro or urban housing policy can also be found here in the seventies, the emergence of the punk movement changed the intention "from activism to egoism". Since the illegally affixed slogans can often be seen in the city for years, especially punk bands and their fans took advantage of this to advertise with their names in the cityscape.

In AMSTERDAM ON TOUR, Writer AGAIN traces how the writing of individual pseudonyms by a new generation emerged from this movement. For already in 1979, years before graffiti writing comes to Europe from America, Amsterdam is covered with the signatures of THE DUMB, KODIAK STONE, VENDEX or N-POWER.

Parallel to the development of tags into sometimes elaborate calligraphic lettering, often combined with figurative elements, poster and stencil artists like Hugo Kaagman and Diano Ozon also anticipate the visual language and style of street art.

When, from 1983, the Yaki Kornblit Gallery not only exhibited New York graffiti, but also invited writers such as SEEN, FUTURA, BLADE and ZEPHYR, they left their mark on the city and influenced the already existing scene. Locals like SHOE, DELTA and JEZIS adapted the form of the Pieces and decisively shaped the style of the emerging graffiti scene in Central Europe with their styles since the mid-1980s.

The book documents the transition of two independent styles of namewriting in Amsterdam in the eighties with unique historical photos and interviews.

             Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

Ralf Gründer. Verboten: Berliner Mauerkunst

 Verboten: Berliner Mauerkunst - Ralf Gründer, 2007

The Berlin Wall, erected by the GDR on August 13, 1961, separated today's capital Berlin into East and West for almost 30 years. From 1975 until November 9, 1989, the so-called "anti-fascist protective wall" consisted of the 3.60m high and 1.20m wide wall segments that are still common today and were bordered by a concrete tube at the top.


Although the Wall stood on GDR soil and thus some meters on the west side were officially East territory, the border was controlled by soldiers only on the east side. This fact encouraged some political activists in the first years to write their comments, accusations and messages with spray can and brush on the wall from the west. Tourists also took advantage of the open spaces and applied commemorative graffiti and political slogans. Since this was not punished from the west side and not painted over from the east side, the border wall around 1980 showed a patchwork of individual traces of its visitors, who mainly left slogan graffiti on it.


Ralf Gründer's "Berliner Mauerkunst" focuses on the following years, in which local and international artists such as Christophe Bouchet, Theirry Noir, Indiano, Kiddy Citny, Richard Hambleton, and Keith Haring discovered the wall as their canvas. Unlike many photo volumes on the Berlin Wall, the book does not present the images of one photographer. Instead, Gründer compiles archives of diverse Wall photographers of the 1980s, classifies them, and provides comprehensive background information on the works. The author also researched archival material from action artists, musicians, and filmmakers in order to trace in as much detail as possible which Wall art was created where and when on the West Side. In terms of scope, completeness, and information density, the book is probably the most comprehensive work on art on the Berlin Wall.

You can find more literature on the Berlin Wall in our catalog.

             Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

Andrea Nelli. Graffiti A New York

GRAFFITI A NEW YORK - Andrea Nelli, 2012

The origin for the worldwide graffiti, street art and urban art movement lies in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. What started locally as simple name-dropping in the streets and backyards of the boroughs evolved into elaborate typefaces that rolled all over the city on Subway trains within a few years.


At its peak in the mid-1980s, the phenomenon went around the world as „Subway Art“, thanks to the book by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. It found imitators globally and academia belatedly began to take an interest in the form of expression.. The standard work "Getting Up" by Craig Castleman, which was not published until 1982, has always been considered the first scientific examination of the subject.

But as early as 1978, Andrea Nelli published "Graffiti a New York," an extensive essay, after he had already been confronted with the name prints in the cityscape six years earlier during his first trip to the city. For his research he interviews actors, gallery owners, collects newspaper reports and analyzes the rapidly changing movement. Due to the bankruptcy of the publishing house only a few weeks after the publication of his dissertation in 1978, the work receives little attention from researchers and only becomes a coveted collector's item in scene circles.

But forty years after Nelli's first visit to New York, "Graffiti a New York" was rediscovered, translated into English, and reissued in 2012 by the Italian publisher Wholetrain Press. In addition to the original text, there are over 100 historical photographs by the author, showing arguably the most important phase of the evolution towards classic graffiti. Both the original and the new edition are part of the holdings of the Martha Cooper Library.

Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche