Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm trying to get this thing up to speed with my next project, for now here is another article to chew on. Whatever label you choose, “Street Art”, “Public Art”, “Public Action” or “Site Specific Mural”, graffiti is no longer an influence that exists in the margins. Mainstream society has embraced the style of the street from artists like “Kaws” and his ever-present marketing presence (from limited edition toys to Nike billboards) to “Twist”, aka Barry McGee and his fine art installations. Both of these prominent individuals started out painting illegally painting stylized lettering, a fact that follows the history of a new group of up and coming artists. Graffiti Artists/Street artists share a common history which lies in the roots of the founding of Hip-Hop culture, which in turn has its roots in New York City and also in California. Hip –Hop culture is a massive influence and part of understanding it is to view its components. The “Four Elements”- Break Dancing, DJing, Rapping, and finally Graffiti are the cornerstones of a culture that has spread from New York to Copenhagen, to Sao Paolo, to Australia, and even to the heart of the reservation. There is a strong parallel with Hip-Hop culture and that of the Indigenous mind set; both respect the knowledge of elders, dance is a vital force, skills and knowledge are passed from one generation to the next, and there is a strong emphasis on understanding history. Graffiti is by far the oldest of the Four Elements of Hip-Hop, its roots lie in the cave paintings of Lascaux, to the hieroglyphics of Egypt and on to the petroglyphs found across the Americas. One factor that lends motivation to Native Street artists in particular is the conceptual idea that graffiti can be a form of cultural repatriation, by painting the infrastructure of the a country full of “stolen” land one can symbolically reclaim and momentarily redefine claims of ownership of “public” spaces. This conceptual thought process goes further into painting graffiti on trains. Trains were a vehicle of change, bringing death and destruction to the culture of the Indigenous people of the Plains, so to paint trains can transform a symbol of death into a image of beauty. There are far too many artists to cover in one sweep, but some artist of note who are working to create new voices in Contemporary Native Art include Yatika Fields and his graffiti soaked abstractions, B-Boy and muralist WaterMelon 7, silkscreen Maestro SABA, the ceramic portraiture of Rose B. Simpson, graphic designer UNEK, the outspoken works of Ernesto Yerena, as well as the art of street-wandering Jaque Fragua . Each of the aforementioned artists has roots in the world of Graffiti/Street Art. Jaque Fragua in particular has been working with the N8VPA (Native Vapor) team as well as with the American Indian Mural Crew (AIM crew) to create murals across the country with other street artists and local Native youth. With so many young people being connected and tuned in to the innovations of Hip-Hop Culture we are looking at a generation of artists on the rise whose creativity resonates from traditional tribal backgrounds mixed with the sounds of rattling spray cans. This one is circa 2013, first published in Contemporary Native Art Magazine Issue #0.

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