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Graffiti

GRAFFITI

GRAFFITI. From the Italian graffito (scribbling), the practice of drawing symbols, images, or words on private or public surfaces without permission. Ancient Romans wrote graffiti, as have many of the world's cultures. The modern graffiti movement, associated with the hip-hop culture of break dancing and rap music, started primarily among black and Latino teenagers in Philadelphia and New York in the late 1960s. In 1971, the New York Times ran a story about "Taki 183," a messenger who had been writing his "tag," or stylized signature, all over New York, and graffiti took off. "Taggers" and "burners," who painted elaborate "pieces," short for masterpieces, usually wrote on subway cars, which had the advantage of moving their writing across the city.

Graffiti elicited strong opinions. To graffiti writers, it was a thriving subculture. To many intellectuals, it was a new and vital art form. To city officials, however, graffiti was illegal vandalism. New York established an anti-graffiti task force and an undercover graffiti police unit and spent many millions of dollars on experimental solvents and train yard security improvements. By the mid-1980s, New York had cut down on graffiti, but by then the art form had spread across the United States and to Europe. A new kind of "gang graffiti" that marks territory and sends messages to rival gangs became common in Los Angeles in the late 1980s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abel, Ernest L., and Barbara E. Buckley. The Handwriting on the Wall: Toward Sociology and Psychology of Graffiti. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977.

Phillips, Susan A. Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Powers, Stephen. The Art of Getting Over: Graffiti at the Millennium. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Jeremy Derfner

See also Art: Self-Taught Artists .

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graffiti

graf·fi·ti / grəˈfētē/ • pl. n. (sing. -to / -tō/ ) [treated as sing. or pl.] writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place: the walls were covered with graffiti | [as adj.] a graffiti artist. • v. [tr.] write or draw graffiti on (something): he and another artist graffitied an entire train. ∎  write (words or drawings) as graffiti. DERIVATIVES: graf·fi·tist / -tist/ n.

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graffiti

graffitiAlbacete, eighty, Haiti, Katy, Kuwaiti, Leyte, matey, pratie, slaty, weighty •safety • frailty •dainty, painty •hasty, pastie, pasty, tasty •suzerainty •Beatty, entreaty, graffiti, meaty, Nefertiti, peaty, sleety, sweetie, Tahiti, titi, treaty •beastie, yeasty

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