Feathered Bastard

Graffiti's still dope and all the laws against it only make it more so.

Sending out an SOS...?

Everyone knows Phoenix is a sucky town for graffiti. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. Not to say there aren't some really talented writers, taggers, piecers and straight-up artists out there. The Mac comes to mind on the mural/street-art tip, though I think he just does legal walls in-town. He's a truly awesome artist. But what about the taggers, the bombers? Where did they get to? The PHX could use more graff, not less. And more quality graff at that.

In L.A., NYC, San Fran, even San Diego, street artists are kings and queens, legends who still get up even when they make the transition to showing work in galleries and getting paid. Here in P-town, there's less respect for it as an urban art form. The city and state are always denouncing graff, passing ever stricter statutes and ordinances to crack down on the "vandals" who practice it. Walls in the Zona seem to get buffed with maniacal regularity. What goes up rarely stays up for long. The result is that the most talented take it out of town. We're left with the work of "toys," graff novices who lack skill.

Occasionally, something fresh, or relatively so, seeps through. I've seen the work of the above artist on everything from huge, fuchsia trash bins, to abandoned buildings. There are always these fat, white bubble-letters. This one seems to say SOS, but I can't be sure. Nor am I sure if this writer always rocks the same three letters. I spied this in the window of an abandoned eatery on Camelback Road. The last time I observed a similar piece was on the side of a piano store about to be torn down, located at Camelback and 20th.

I'm not saying the dood's a genius or anything. But as far as I'm concerned, this artist is helping to ameliorate the urban blight created by this city's mania for mindlessly building and rebuilding. Take downtown PHX, for instance. It looks like shit and that's called "progress," progress foisted upon us by our not-so august city fathers. The only blow being struck against such officially sanctioned blight is graffiti, a form of art that stretches back to man's prehistory.

Cities with great art scenes have an overabundance of graff, graff that often crosses over to fine art galleries. Some of the great artists that have come from the streets include Keith Haring, Basquiat, Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Barry McGee (aka, Twist), Fafi, and many, many others. No art historian worth his or her salt would deny the importance and influence of street art, stenciling, and graff these days. Go to any mainstream bookstore or library, and you're likely to find a shelf of books on the subject. There are tons of graff mags, and art pubs like Juxtapoz regularly feature the work of graff artists.

Yeah, it's against the law. But so is running a red light. I wouldn't condone the destruction of someone's home or private car, but then neither would most true graff artists.

If anyone out there has a tip on some cool graff, send me a line at [email protected] and I'll do my best to document it before it gets buffed. Ya never know, the next Basquiat might be out there somewhere.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons

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