They spoke 'Calo', their own language, a cool jive of half English, half-Spanish rhythms. The term applied to the slang the gypsies and bullfighters of Mexico and Spain used at that time. Here the 'Old School Cholo' L. Out of this experience came lowrider cars and culture, clothes, music, tag-names, and again, its own language.
Los Angeles graffiti has its own visual presentation. It is a public announcement. Its letter face has always been called 'Old English' and is always printed in upper case capital letters. This squarish, prestigious typeface was meant to present to the public a formal document, encouraging gang strength, and creating an aura of exclusivity.
The Placa is written in a contemporary high advertising format, with a headline, body copy, and a logo. These three major building blocks of corporate public advertising can also describe the type layout from ancient Sumerian clay tablets to the Constitution of the United States. The headline states thang or street name, the body copy is your rollcall list of everyone's gang name, and the logo refers to the person who wrote it by adding his tag at the end.
Placas are written with care to make them straight and clean. They are flushed left and right or words are stacked and centered. Rarely are they ever done in lower case free-script, or other than in black letters, one of the many differences from N. This tradition of type, names and language rarely deviates drastically and is handed down from generation to generation. They are markings by generations of rebellious youth announcing their pride and strength to all outsiders.
I feel that by writing your name makes you exist, how you write makes you strong, and by writing on the wall, it makes you immortal. It is graffiti by the neighborhood, for the neighborhood. That's another difference between Cholo and Hip Hop. In Cholo, usually one writer writes for the whole gang, and only writes within their own territory.
In Hip Hop graffiti styles there is an individual focus, where 'getting up' all-city or all-state with your tag is more important. Generally speaking, the typeface of Hip Hop tags changes to a more personalized upper and lower case free-script.
Our lowrider, oldies music and old school graffiti style in Los Angeles have been getting a new revival in the last few years. Cholo graffiti is still strong and is a big influence on the L. Hip Hop writing crews. I see many young writers today still use some forms of the Cholo style in their work. The large, black Old English letters, highly abstracted and carefully designed, reveal strength and control. Besides just looking at the surface, this is an image that demands to be read and understood.
These inscriptions achieve incredible sophisticated aesthetic heights and disclose the concerns of the neighborhood. My personal involvement with graffiti started in the late 's, but art has been a part of my entire life. I had always seen and understood graffiti, even in grammar school in the 's, but it wasn't until I was out of High School in that I became truly aware what graffiti was all about and also the current international art movements.
Minimalism, Pop and early Conceptual assemblage was in. I felt that the gallery art market was thin and shallow. Too much head and not enough heart. I needed to find my own voice in art that described my existence, my surroundings, and what was important to my generation, not mentally formulated solutions. I wanted In-Your-Face Art. Cholo graffiti's inner meanings had not been thought of as art. No one thought that graf was art, as some still believe today.
They said that graffiti was "A socioeconomic response to a repressed portion of our society. When done well, it would glow with pride. I could feel that spirit, like all of us do. I went for the graffiti. I felt that in art, the absolute perfection of a line is a greater awareness of truth, and graffiti was Word! Also, it is said that a person's inner character can be read by their handwriting. In graffiti, so can a group's character and attitude be identified by their writings.
This very essence that letters, words and symbols could be my building blocks to build by character and define my desperate, rebellious need to express myself. Graffiti spoke to me at this time and said that these writings are more than threatening words of defiance, but a path, a spirit of choice, a true voyage seeking self-esteem. Graffiti script demonstrates the Oriental work ethic of one hour of preparation for one minute of execution.
Some of Japan's most famous war generals were poets. Before the battle, they would write their feeling through their calligraphy by writing a poem of solemn beauty or righteous strength. Pu Ju, brother of the last emperor of China. I needed a better understanding of line, to better understand the calligraphy of graffiti. In this small photo book of L. We heard about the Fun Gallery and finally the blocking of the train yards withdogs and razor wire.
But New York was so far away. There is no influence here until the beginning of the 's. In my mind, the early New York style was about 'getting up' writing individual names, it was about 'identity'. While here in L. My own work was about finding the soul of graffiti.
I started to shift from the streets to my first graffiti canvas painting in I needed to have longer conversations with the image.
The streets were not giving me enough time to draw what I wanted to say. I needed months on one painting. You see, the image is the teacher. It says what you draw and how you draw, describes your life. For example, do I need straightening? Do I need more definition? Keep to the subject! Do I need more light on my thoughts and ideas? Do I need to be clearer in my mental vision?
These are some of the questions solved by doing canvas graffiti. A major change in my life happened when Blades and I traveled around the world for three years, visiting thirty-five countries. I looked at customs, art and tattoos in the South Pacific, Asia and Europe. I came back having found a more common understanding to all languages and writings. We returned in and I determined to paint more graffiti art. I have also worked at many movie and product advertising agencies as my day job.
I had the opportunity to design a few movie titles: I have painted backgrounds for commercials and designed logos, for Reebok, Arco, album covers, rock bands, and line illustrations of stereos, food, tractors, anything and everything. I designed and built commercial art for fifteen years until That experience made me understand the true nature and sheer power of mass advertising.
Talk about "getting up"! The many issues that we dislike about advertising are the same issues we dislike about graffiti. Issues like who 'violates' or who 'owns' the public space? Who has the right to speak or place billboards in your face? The real war against graffiti is all about materialism, and materialism is politics. Any dialogue about graffiti that does not talk about the image is just politics.
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