Some form of graffiti has been around for thousands of years. Etched into stone by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, these artistic outcries often expressed underlying social and political messages.
Over the last forty years, graffiti and its more formal counterpart, street art, have evolved into some of the most influential art forms and have spread through the world by their bond with hip hop culture. Whether on subway trains or in the streets, whether scribbled or scratched or sprayed, whether a political statement or a memorial for those who have passed, both forms have developed into legitimate stepping stones into the world of fine art and commercial success.
To further understand the progress of these modern day art forms, the following books will give you an overview of where they have been and where they are going.
This 400-page tome traces the evolution of late-20th century graffiti from the early freight train days to the more modern large-scale murals on the streets of New York and Philadelphia. This revealing book features behind-the-scenes stories, profiles, popular trends and styles that have dominated the scene, as well as a thorough examination of the regional differences between graffiti writers. It is one of the most comprehensive volumes on the subject and a must-read to understand graffiti in America.
Though the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has erased and tried to forget the early ‘80s graffiti that was scrawled across its trains, those who were here and were drawn to the colorful graphics of that time, have come to idolize that time. From the Platform: Subway Graffiti, 1983-1989 is the ultimate New York City graffiti book. It provides not only a photographic record of a time that has disappeared, but also a wonderful outlook on the exploration of a legendary age when artists risked their lives and limbs to create a new art form.
Shepard Fairey is one of those artists who have been lucky enough to make the jump from the street to commercial success. Documenting seventeen years of his work–from his “Andre the Giant” posters and stickers pasted around cities to his iconic propaganda images for the presidential campaign for Barack Obama–this book illuminates the story and work of an anti-establishment vandal who became a Pop Art icon.
Graffiti has become much more than spray painting a building with someone’s name. Across the pond, Banksy has become famous and infamous for his “guerrilla” street art antics. Painting walls, streets, and bridges as well as creating sculptures across the world, he has bewildered and impressed major art museums and everyday people alike. While he chooses to remain unknown, his work has become unmistakable for its cheeky wit and concise commentary on art and politics. This book illustrates an overview of Banksy’s career, explaining an active street artist who had never been explored before.
This book documents an ongoing project created by JR, a French artist, and José Parlá, an American artist, and their collaboration with in Cuba. JR and Parlá photographed and recorded 25 senior citizens who lived through the Cuban Revolution. With their photographs, they created large-scale art pieces on Cuban buildings by combining their artistic styles. These works animated a city whose walls are otherwise adorned only by images of its leaders and gave a voice to those often overlooked. Within this volume, the portraits, short biographies, and photographs of the mural collaborations painted around Havana are featured.
Os Gemeos are the Brazilian twin brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, both credited as the leaders of graffiti and urban art in Brazil. Their bizarre, yellow, odd-shaped characters have become signatures of their style. This book contains mostly narrative paintings and drawings that include scenes from their vibrantly colorful lives in urban Brazil. Their work addresses social inequity and aspires to create hope. Though these two have quickly risen to international importance–equally in galleries and the streets, despite being linked to the graffiti scene–their style and significance in the art world cannot be categorized under one label.