How We Know Graffiti is Mainstream

throwiesIt’s dark. It’s insidious. It’s a conspiracy. It’s fostering anarchy. And it’s just plain cool. It’s the Graffiti Research Lab. In it’s own words the lab is, “Dedicated to outfitting graffiti artists with open source technologies for urban communication.” Yeah, ok, they’re talking about graffiti here, but sometimes the way you say it makes it so much more..uh…meaningful. These guys have some pretty neat things going on, starting with LED throwies. “A Throwie consists of a lithium battery, a 10mm diffused LED and a rare-earth magnet taped together. Throw it up high and in quantity to impress your friends and city officials.” Watch the video here (at the end the whole thing becomes a community event).

The point here is that this is high-tech graffiti. High-tech not just with regard to the medium, but with regard to the organization, the reach, and the purpose. It moves beyond running along the railroad tracks with spraypaint (although it includes that too). It moves beyond spraypaint because traditional graffiti has been mainstreamed. It’s art. We need online calendars to keep up with the graffiti shows. It’s hard to be part of the mysterious underworld when you can’t be late for the opening of your show at the Whitney Museum. GRL is bringing back that mystery and lawlessness, only dressed in a new du rag with a silicon gold cap.With graffiti, and its stylistic cousins, comic and tattoo art, all but mainstreamed, I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t found it’s way into more products, particularly social expression products. You can write on a wall in Facebook, but why can’t you tag it? What about greeting cards and wrapping paper using graffiti and tattoo designs? Notebook covers? Mini-fridges? Dog crates? Posters?

We see more of comics. A recent story in the New York Times tells of comic strip collectors and reprints of both famous and obscure strips. In March, the movie “300” will be out. It’s based on a graphic novel (and loosely on the Battle of Thermopylae). And, of course, the ever present art galleries to show comic book art.

There’s a lot of inspiration out there, for those who want it.

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