Steve: These claims that I've been hearing over the last few months from city
officials that say graffiti is suddenly out of control and we need all
these new aggressive measures, to me that's insanely ridiculous. Three,
four, five years ago, the city was covered in graffiti. If you went through Downtown or the SoMa District or the Mission, you would see rooftops,
one after another, with big colorful pieces on them that would rotate
and change on a regular basis. That's just all gone. Because
the city erased them. So I just don't get the "Suddenly it's out of
control." What's out of control? I don't know. There's something
political going on here.
they get tagged on a bunch, and then somebody does a fill-in, and
eventually it gets to a piece, a multicolored thing that somebody puts
up. And then it stays there. A few years ago, I could've
pointed out things that were well over 10 years old. And they
hadn't been painted on. They hadn't even been tagged on because there's
a respect level that it gets to. So one of the interesting things that
buffing -- especially on a regular basis like daily or weekly -- does is
ensure that only the worst stuff is up.
Steve: Yeah, it lowers the quality.
Chris: Because not only are people not willing to waste their colors and
cans on doing a piece, they are going to go crazy just trying to keep
their name up somewhere. So they're gonna paint on windows,
they're gonna use glass etch, they're
gonna grind their name into things, paint over like an awning and a
wall and a window at the same time so that you not only have to get
someone out their to fucking paint the thing, but you have to use some
kind of rough chemical on the awning, and get the glass dude to come
and buff the glass. It's like a war. You step up one thing and they
step up the other thing. So all you're ensuring is that the gnarliest
part of it stays. Which is the part that I don't even like. I don't
like riding the bus and looking through glass etch out the window. I
hate that shit. Now when I walk past a wall that's buffed every day, I
know I'm only gonna see the worst tags. You're ensuring that it's just
gonna be the most ruthless, barbaric stuff -- the worst stuff. And
that it's not gonna progress.
don't get to see quality work anymore. They see all this junk that's
out there now. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: Because of the city's
buffing, most of the graffiti that people see now is not really that
good. It does look kind of threatening.
how about that, haters? By disallowing graffiti's natural progression
to take place, are we ensuring only that we continue to see nothing but
junk on our fair city's walls?
book is out now, but there's a release party at Books Inc. next Monday,
at which Steve and Chris and a number of honest-to-goodness street
artists will be on hand to discuss any of the above. Full details are here.
All photos by Steve Rotman.