Tim woods (‘beginning postmodernism’, 127) Saw Postmodernisms emergence as:
“a reaction to modern art’s obsession with a clinical purity of form and autonomous abstraction. Bored with the incessant drive for ever-increasing minimalism and abstraction, postmodernism was part of a reintroduction of ornament, morals, allegories and decoration into art...the description ‘postmodernist’ applies to art that exemplifies in form and content the postmodern condition of post-history and stylistic pluralism. Whereas in 1967 art magazines were full of sleek cubic forms, by 1969 these had been replaced by natural substances, ongoing processes, photographic images, language and art ‘happening’ in real life. This disillusionment with the art object, with consumer culture and with the scientific pretence of objectivity, together with a distrust of the artificial world, produced art which retrospectively made modernism look austere and reductive, its purity look puritanical and its preoccupation with perfect structure seem formalistic”.
Postmodernism is thus a movement that is media saturated, pluralistic, and obsessed with popular culture. It “celebrates style, consumerism and hedonism” (Tim Woods, 217) and because of this, the demand for decorative art increases; for advertising, graphic design, illustration, animation, it’s all about pleasing a mass audience. Dick Hebdige states (preface), “It is easy to see that we are living in a time of rapid and radical social change. It is much less easy to grasp the fact that such change will inevitably affect the nature of those disciplines, that both reflect our society and help to shape it” This ‘radical social change’ comes in the form of
resistant movements, wanting to evolve, explore and go beyond what is classed as ‘normal’, resist the capitalist ideals of postmodernism and represent their own views. The hippies and Punks were part of the first postmodern resistance movements. They looked at society the way dada and the expressionists did, with an eye for change, revolution and non-conformity. Punk ideologies can be related to contemporary political graffiti, through artists such as Banksy and David Choe.
David Choe (2010) - ride the bus: available from: http://www.davidchoe.com/walls/pages/ride%20the%20bus.html
Graffiti has been around for centuries, starting with simple lines/ images on walls of caves and has evolved with experimentation, creativity, technology and architecture (the walls from which to paint on). It began to become globally recognized in the 1970’s (although still illegal), where painters would ‘bomb’ trains, spray painting their names and characters all over the New York subways. Unlike traditional fine art it used spray cans to make quick, bold and vibrant images; ignoring the rules and laws of society, letting them express themselves in a way that held no boundaries, people could react to anything they wanted, how they wanted. Terrance Lindall has said, (as cited in ‘writing on the wall’ by Carmela Ciuraru) "Graffiti is revolutionary...and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it’s free”. As expressed by (convicted graffiti artist) Simon Sunderland who ‘demanded a right to freedom of expression’; “In a society based on image, greed, selfishness - we are the few who have broken the chains by exposing our art by any means necessary” (John, A. Walker, 206). This brings about the questions; Is society denying the artists of their freedom? In what context is graffiti a crime? Do the mass media create the definition of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? And are they preventing this form of self expression in order to maintain order and power? If so has this resistance affected the actions of the graffiti artist?
I’ll begin outlining the graffiti artists intentions and ideologies and the ways in which they put their point across. The graffiti artist seeks to resist the “enlarged role of the mass media that allows them to exercise a powerful ideological influence over their audience” (Strinati, 221) through either strong contextual pieces (Banksy, David Choe and tights on head man) or a simple tag on a wall. Both show different sides to the resistance, For example, the image on the left shows a simple ‘tag’.
Shirk (2010). Graffiti writing tutorial: Available from: http://www.cutnspray.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=5263
Many graffiti artists thrive on the illegality of tagging, taking advantage of the spray cans speed and the abundance of ‘free’ surfaces on which to paint. Their goal; to get there name up, get noticed, be somebody in the underground world. They want to show their defiance of the law and authority and have fun. Through my own practice I have seen how essential the ‘tag’ is to graffiti as a whole. Below is an image of a sketch i produced. I based the 3d letters on a tag i had previously produced, by manipulating and exaggerating parts of each letter, i have created a bold and 3d 'throw up'.
Daniel Durant (2011)
Although its mainly seen as the rodent of the art world, annoying and making walls ‘ugly’; The tag is essential in helping you find your own unique hand style, figure out how letters work together and expanding your skills beyond the tag (throwups, murals etc). To make it bolder and more complex. It’s the starting point of graffiti and is employed by youths at the beginning of their graffiti careers. It represents their freedom. However as you grow up the consequences of your actions can lead to severe punishments and do not ‘help pay the bills’. This has lead to commercialisation and integration of graffiti into the mass media.