I know I’m longer winded that most bloggers on Mtn-World.com, but if you can spare just 8 minutes of your day to read this, I think it would be worth your precious time.
I had the honor to speak for The Estria Foundation & to represent MTN Colors North America at a new art gathering called ArtPadSF in San Francisco. I know many of my writer friends and crew members could not make it, so I’m dropping my speech here for all to enjoy. The audience for this was art buyers and people that know nothing about graffiti. Therefore the topic was all about the history of graffiti writing and how Montana Colors has helped us in our current times.
If you’ve never attended a Pecha Kucha talk, speakers are only allowed to show 20 images or slides and speak for 20 seconds on each of them. I’ve edited this since some of the content I’ve presented already in past blog entries.
I’m going to take some time to go over a short & rapid history lesson on the art of “graffiti writing.” Many of you know the term graffiti as to what this first slide looks like. You can’t identify or read it. Most of the public thinks graffiti is considered to be illegal tagging of walls, trains or bus stops.
To understand it, lets take a look at the meaning of the word graffiti. Graffiti is defined as “markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public space.”
The origins of the word graffiti come from the Latin root of graph-ire’ emanating to write. This word evolved in Italian to “graff-ito” meaning “incised inscription or design” and “graff-ite” and “graffi-iare” meaning to scratch.
1st homosaphien caveman - They scratched on the walls to record what occurred around them. These walls from the Paleolithic period, 17,000 years old, is believed to be the oldest action of gra-phire’ writing. The first man scratched with animal bones and had natural pigments to color it. The images that they scratched depicted scenes of everyday life, such as hunting and gathering of food. Fast forward to 4,000 BC (before Christ) where the Egyptians start to use sharper rocks & hammers and devised their writing system. Heiroglyphics was developed where they carved or engraved, but with the “Word of God.”
Fast Forward to the graffiti from Pompeii, Italy, dated before 79 AD. Here’s a picture of a section of incised wall plaster that says: “If anyone has not seen Venus, then he should gaze at my girlfriend.” In the ancient Roman world, graffiti was a respected form of writing, often interactive, not the kind of defacement we now see on rocky cliffs and bathroom stalls. In history, it was also recorded that graffiti was marked on bridges by the Roman armies that conquered each civilization near each bridge. Since bridges were the structures that controlled embargo trading and the connections that bridged civilizations together, whoever controlled the bridges controlled the embargo.
Post World War II in 1946, no one knows exactly who Kilroy was, but it was conceived that Kilroy was an American soldier who came back from the war after marking his Sunday cartoon character on bridges of cities that American troops conquered in Europe.
Larry Lovebone was noted to be the 1st graffiti writer in the US with and alias name photos of his work in 1965. His name & markings say it all. Darryl McCray, referred to as Cornbread, was a graffiti artist from Philadelphia. Starting in 1967, he is regarded as “father of modern graffiti”. All of these guys wrote on the walls or trains for the same reason why graffiti artists do it – Identity. They tell everyone that they are here and everywhere.
Phase2 was one of the first New York graffiti writers to evolve the artform on the MTA subway systems and walls. Here we have a 2 page spread out from the out of print book, by Steven Hager, Hip Hop – The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti. We see how Phase2 has taken the tag to the bubble lettering to “Wildstyle” typography of complexity where the everyday viewer can no longer read it. However, to the trained graffiti writer, their fraternity of the experienced eye can still read this typography.
Tagging - This is how I started to learn how to work with a spraycan. Every graffiti writer must start from tagging. If you do graffiti, you are a graffiti writer. It then evolves to doing the bubble letters shown by the earlier slide of Phase2. Then from the bubble letter throw-up, wildstyle bar letter pieces are done and then if a graffiti writer has potential, he or she starts to learn how to do productions of more picturesque murals where he or she can start to tells stories. Here’s a snapshot of a great video of Apex done for the online Infamous graffiti magazine. The one thing you have to remember is “You have to have style.”
Crayone allowed Estria and me to join his crew TWS, Together With Style in San Francisco, California in 1986. Above is the huge wall that Crayone did with Man45 in PaloAlto at the Club Vortex. The picture, taken by Jim Prigoff (author & photographer of Spraycan Art book), doesn’t do any justice to show you how big this wall was, about 25 feet high and 50 feet wide. To see this in person, blew me away. It made me realize that anything I did had to be bigger, better and I had to burn the walls to show other writers the concepts of imagery that they had never seen before.
After learning the skinny cap, stencil tip technique, Estria and I transferred the airbrushing skills we had learned in highschool and took to the walls. The famous Ferrari car in Chinatown by Estria woke up our competition with rival crew, TMF, and that we meant serious business when it came to painting. We went back to do another wall in Chinatown with Crayone & Risque that you see on the left that says “Together With Style Kings.” (This photo is also credited to Jim Prigoff.) You can see the influence of the Japanese Robotech imagery that I stepped up by using the chrome airbrush techniques of Hajime Soroyama with the Zentradi robot. Toward the later years of the 80’s, I realized that I should paint something with my culture and the spraycan geisha girl was born.
Here’s how Montana Colors has fallen into our graffiti writing world history. In April 1994, graffiti writers Moockie & Kapi start the Montana Colors company in Barcelona, Spain. Montana Colors manufactures the 1st spraycan for graffiti writers. This is historic because it was the first spraypaint company to be owned by graffiti writers creating paint for graffiti writers. In 1996, the first exports to other European paint shops in Switzerland, Italy and the Nederlands are distributed. Later exports start to move to France, UK, Germany and in 2001 Montana Colors was brought to the USA by our very own, Alex Neon. Today, Montana Colors ships to 42 countries around the world.
NOTE: Here’s something that I think the public must know and this is important. In 2000, the German company, DupliColor, offered to buy Montana Colors SL, but their offer was rejected due to the fact that Montana Colors wanted to remain a graffiti writer-owned private company. Duplicolor wanted to dominate the graffiti market and started a destructive campaign against Montana Colors by told them that they will copy their paint formula, they copied their exact cans labels, advertised that they will destroy the Spanish Montana Colors company. The German DupliColor continues to dilute the market by calling their company the same name of “Montana.” Some of you know this company as the brand of “Montana Gold” today. They are a multinational company 20 times bigger than Montana Colors in Spain. Besides MTN being a superior paint product, this is one of the reasons why I support Montana Colors.
So what has this done for us today? Above is just a section of the superburner by NewYork writer, Vulcan. Many advancements have risen due to Montana Colors! We now have over 130 colors to choose from instead 40 colors that we had from American paint brands of Krylon & Rustoleum. Gone are the days of the old, crappy, fuzzy line quality from stock nozzles with the introduction of several nozzle tips from Montana Colors that provide set widths & control the amount of paint that comes out of the can. We truly have no excuse to not advance the artform of the spraycan.
Next slide shows the Meeting of Styles in 2008 where Estria & I painted our Japanese culture and called this piece “Heart & Perseverance.” I painted the background and most of the Oni demons on the left. Estria painted the samurai girl riding a good luck koi fish. This was one of the first productions I painted where I used Montana Colors Hardcore. At this time, Estria was doing a series of Samurai women to show the empowerment of women in his life.
The Estria Invitational Graffiti Battles started as a parking lot jam in back of East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland back in 2007 with the goal of questioning “Who would be the ‘best of the best’ if we had a graffiti battle in all the land?” After 2011’s 5th anniversary of the Estria Battle events, it has grown to travel to 5 cities across the USA country with the finals always ending in West Oakland’s Defremery “Lil Bobby Hutton” Park. Winners of every city are flown to the finals event to compete for the nationwide crown. Montana Colors is proud to be one of the official sponsors for the battles, where 3-5,000 attendees come to the finals event. In addition, Montana Colors N. America also sponsors the Estria Foundation with their philanthropy project of the Water Writes projects that you just heard about, from the lovely Nancy Hernandez.
In 2010, the city of Oakland started the event of Art Murmur. To kick it off, MTN Colors selected us to concept a mural in the epicenter of downtown where several new art galleries opened. Our concept was about “Destruction & Rebirth.” This mural involved Apex, ChorBoogie, Estria, Jase, King157, Neon, Vogue & myself and the collaboration was a great dance that mixed all of our styles in a rainbow spectrum of graffiti lettering styles that intertwined across this 70 foot long wall. Photos here were taken by Leo Gong. The mural is about the Mayan prediction on the end of the world. We asked if everything was destroyed, what would be left? Our answer was the heart and soul of hip hop.
Miami Art Basel 2010 with Apex, ChorBoogie, Estria, Jase, Neon, Rime, Vogue & myself – We painted the old RC Cola Bottling factory, which spans about 130 feet long and 30 feet high. This was a laborious 7days of nonstop painting. In the end, this wall was one of the major stops for the Wynwood Walls bike tours for art tourists visiting Miami. At the same time, Montana Colors distributed 2,000 cans to local artists painting walls & installations around the city for Art Basel.
Now at ArtPadSF, I’m here to tell you that we still are graffiti writers, but we’re not writing or just tagging walls anymore. We are grown, matured men painting with a message now, but we will always be “graffiti writers.” If there’s anything that you take away from my talk, think about how graffiti writing in the ancient times was never illegal. Think about the beginning of my talk and how the purposes of cavemen writing on walls are the same purposes on what we are doing now – telling stories, sharing our cultures and enriching the public with the arts.
However currently graffiti writers are fined, arrested & if caught, your bail in America can go into the triple dollar figures. Businesses get fined $5,000 in LA for having graffiti on their property for over 1 week on their own private property. The fine from the City & County on San Francisco business owners is $1,500 per month for business owners that don’t buff graffiti on their walls. I can understand the city wanting to get rid of tagging, but what is wrong with our system when it penalizes the owners of property for allowing the expression of the arts on their own private property? Why are outdoor advertising billboards are still allowed to be shoved in our public spaces and given preferential treatment to display their so-called art? Why is graffiti writing illegal now when it never was illegal when tradesmen, historians & scholars wrote it on their spaces in our historic past?
We must be aware of the Los Angeles mural ordinance laws. If these laws get passed, business owners that allow muralists and graffiti writers to paint their private property walls will be in jeopardy. If this LA ordinance gets officially passed, it’s possible that it will affect us in San Francisco where the same thing that occurs in LA can happen in the San Francisco Bay Area & across the USA. Keep your eyes peeled & your ears open about this LA Mural Ordinance.
Thank you Paloma Belara for coordination, The Estria Foundation, and ArtPadSF for allowing me to speak. Go to MTN-World.com to read more on Montana Colors. Now you know the difference between Montana Gold from Germany & Montana (MTN) Colors from Spain! …and don’t stop writing, painting or creating!