On Tuesday, February 9th at 5:00 PM I attended the screening of the film “Wall Writers” in the University Theater. I felt as though it provided me with very interesting insights on graffiti and its origins. I’ve always admired the art of graffiti, but never knew how it actually started. Watching the movie has definitely led me to a deeper appreciation of how graffiti has transformed as an art.
If I’m to be completely honest, I’m not sure how I feel about tagging and just writing one’s name everywhere just for the fun of it. A lot of the original wall-writers thought that the mystery surrounding whoever wrote the names was its biggest appeal. As a somewhat soft-spoken person, I don’t relate to wanting to be widely known among a large population. However, it helps me appreciate that graffiti stems from very humble beginnings. According to the producer Roger Gastman, it started as a “friendly competition.” I think the process of how it became a form of art and self expression over time is quite beautiful.
I think that the most interesting portion of the movie was when they described how U.G.A. (United Graffiti Artists) was formed. A man named Hugo Martinez found some of the biggest names in tagging from those days and exploited their skills to make money for himself. This was when the first piece of graffiti on canvas was sold as “art”. Although Hugo Martinez had ill intentions, it was cool to see wall writers finally become recognized as artists. They didn’t have to steal their art supplies anymore. They could just focus on their creative process.
After the movie ended, the producer held a Q&A with the audience. I had the opportunity to ask Robert Gastman a question. Earlier in the Q&A someone asked him how he obtained all the footage from the 70’s and 80’s, and he replied by saying he spent a lot of time digging in library archives and other resources. I asked him how long the research and digging process took in comparison to the actual filming of the documentary. Robert Gastman has always had an interest in the world/history of graffiti and consequently has been doing his own independent research on the subject since he was nineteen. Taking into consideration his involved background in the topic of graffiti, he said that it took him and his crew about seven years to put the production together. Although it took so long, he says that he’s partially glad that he did because if not, he wouldn’t have been able to gather as much information as he did.
Because of this extra credit assignment, I feel as though I’m able to hold a more profound appreciation of graffiti and its history. I think that as a whole, this experience will help me complete this weeks assignment with a better understanding of graffiti.
“Art is an evolutionary act. The shape of art and its role in society is constantly changing. At no point is art static. There are no rules.”
― Raymond Salvatore Harmon,