UP6: Artist's Foreword

Written by Menace of the MenaceResa Duo

Written by Menace of the MenaceResa duo – the cover artists for UP Magazine’s Issue 6: Graffiti

Order your copy of Issue 6 Graffiti here!

Firstly, thanks for picking up this issue of UP Mag. As T.K. will tell you, UP documents all forms of urban art, but this issue in particular is dedicated to graffiti.

There is an ongoing debate between those that identify as graffiti writers, who come from the tradition and culture of writing graffiti – and everyone else, lovingly labeled “street artists.” To be called a street artist can be offensive to someone who identifies as a graffiti writer. So what exactly is graffiti, and why do people do it?

Graffiti, as defined by the dictionary, is “writings or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on the wall or other surface in a public place.” However, graffiti goes deeper than this. As a culture, graffiti started in the early 1970s in NYC, with the tagging generation. Young kids from all over the city would destroy trains and walls with any writing utensil they could find, leaving their humanity on soulless surfaces, as messages to other kids. This evolved into painting trains, and a competition of writing your name the biggest and the flashiest began to push the art form forward.

Soon, the tags became block letters, which became burners with different colors, and then burners became whole train cars complete with design concepts, characters, and custom-made colors that artists would spend hours mixing in their rooms. Kids were catching cases and going to jail for this form of self-expression. By the 1990s, magazines were created and distributed through a loose networks of writers, and freight train painting sent styles all across the continent. Those young tagging kids grew up and moved around the country, bringing the culture with them. The North American scene grew heavily, and key cities with deep organic graffiti cultures emerged. Europeans dazzled by the creative freedom of this art began to adopt it for themselves, and the culture globalized.

Back then, the only way to catch a piece was by seeing it in person, or through one of the zines. Now, in the internet age, graffiti is a culture celebrated by a huge international community. Thanks to the speed of connection, we can enjoy pieces done by writers in Asia, Europe, Australia, and everywhere else instantly. It’s common for writers to meet other writers on the web, and go paint in another country. Language barriers don’t matter, nor does skin color or upbringing. All who participate can speak the language of graffiti, and it is one of the most beautiful things about this culture.

However, one must remember the true objective of graffiti. At its core, graffiti is a sport – a full contact sport of skill and mastery, of heart and mind, and it involves devoting your entire soul to play effectively. Your goal is to be the most prolific writer, by any means necessary. Risky spots with size and danger involved get the most points. And herein lies the fundamental philosophical differences between the different types of people who enjoy this sport.

“At its core, graffiti is a sport – a full contact sport of skill and mastery, of heart and mind, and it involves devoting your entire soul to play effectively.”

There are writers who are actively competing in their city or region to be the absolute most prolific. These bombers will spend days and nights painting their names as many times as fast as possible, everywhere in the city. It is less about style and finesse – although some bombers definitely have it – and more about the speed and execution. Big silver and black fills are their weapon of choice. Quantity over quality. These are people who will have no problem fighting someone who goes over one of their bombs, and no problem going over someone else for a prime spot. It is a game of domination, of determination, of strength, to see who has more heart to devote to the game.

For some, this sport is lifestyle they were born into. Many cities have deep graffiti roots that are tied directly to their city’s culture. New York is the birthplace of hip hop, and graffiti is one of the core elements. As hip-hop is a birthright to New Yorkers, many writers are simply raised in that way of life and add their mark to the game. On the other side of the continent, Los Angeles has a deep gang and cholo culture that translates directly to their writer mentality, with crews moving as cohesive units and competing to see which pack of writers is superior.

“It is a game of domination, of determination, of strength, to see who has more heart to devote to the game.”

To others, it is the advancement of a beautiful art form. Graffiti exploded as a craft in the late 80s, when skilled writers took letter forms and bent them and twisted them to create true works of mastery. In terms of typography, if traditional calligraphy is classical music, then graffiti lettering is jazz. Writers that are more concerned with furthering graffiti styles will spend their time trying to push the boundaries. It is less about battling in the city, and more about battling on the wall.

For all serious writers, “lifers” as I like to call them – graffiti writing is a spiritual endeavor. To be able to go up to a public place and commit a crime of passion takes high levels of mental fortitude and trust in oneself. True writers will face adversity from friends, family, and society at large in the form of social ostracization and imprisonment, just to keep the culture and art alive in their hearts.

“True writers will face adversity from friends, family, and society at large in the form of social ostracization and imprisonment, just to keep the culture and art alive in their hearts.”

To be able to create letters from your soul and visually express them in a beautiful manner takes clarity of spirit and hundreds of thousands of hours of practice. To exclaim your presence on this earth in the form of an illegal marking is a direct exercise of manifestation. If you will yourself, you will exist, and the more work you put in, the more you can see yourself growing. Your energetic sphere of influence grows with each tag you put up and each piece you paint, until at some point, your graffiti becomes you and envelops your life.

This edition of UP Magazine is devoted to showcasing some of the best and most influential in the contemporary graffiti scene, though it only scratches the surface of the vast and complex culture. Our objective is to break you, the street art enthusiast, into the fantastic universe of graffiti, so that the next time you see those crazy funky letters you have a better understanding of what exemplifies a good graffiti writer, from many different viewpoints.

Thank you, dear reader. Enjoy the most illegal edition of UP Magazine to date.

Purchase a copy of UP Magazine’s Issue 6 here for an in-depth perspective on global graffiti culture!

Menace Two and Resa Piece are a graffiti artist couple from New York City that strive to use the most positive aspects of graffiti and street art to create murals to uplift the world. They are currently traveling the United States in their shuttle bus conversion, painting free murals for communities and trying to spread their message of love, hope, and knowledge of self through their artwork.

Instagram: @menaceresa

Website: menaceresa.art