(Read part 1 of the interview with Steve Grody)
Part 2 of the interview with Steve Grody, author of Graffiti L.A.: Street Styles and Art.
All pictures below are from Steve Grody's "Graffiti" archive.
9. Given your long-term connection with Graffiti writers, do you think there is a common trait that makes a person drawn to Graffiti?
Well, a rebellious streak is certainly required, determination, and creativity. On the other hand, there is no shortage of veteran writers that wonder if the new generation is just doing it out of faddishness and whether they have the commitment to do anything past a couple of arrests.
10. In the book, there is a lot of discussion regarding technique and style. Do you see any new developments?
Technique keeps evolving, and you can recognize a lot of work as contemporary by things like organic bio-morphic forms or the modeling of letterforms to have more dimension to them. Unfortunately, too many up and coming writers are concentrating on the technical bells and whistles and not enough on strong basic letter design. They're going for the icing and they don't even know how to bake the cake.
11. I consider the late 80s and early 90s the golden years for Los Angeles graffiti. I noticed that in the past few years the amount of graffiti has increased and the quality of graffiti is coming back. There is a whole new generation of people that are putting in the work. There are thousands of videos, MySpace pages and websites dedicated to Graffiti. A person can achieve fame all over the world without being there. Do you think the internet is responsible for the rise in Graffiti?
The internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can see a lot of what's going on around the world easily, but on the other hand, there seems because of that to be less mentorship, and that guidance is what is usually required for the best development. Also, because of less mentorship, there is more stupid activity, like going on public murals, or going over a burner with a crap throw-up.
12. Speaking of the internet, there are many internet graffiti sites. You also have one called Graffitila.com. Before the internet, different geographic locations had distinct styles. Now everyone has access to pictures of graffiti from all over the world. Do you think this instant access affects creativity?
Again, it's a mixed blessing, because while it helps bring up the general level, the local distinctions can disappear. A lot of the best L.A. writers still have the distinction of having been influenced by the shapes of gang graffiti even if they weren't in gangs themselves. When I see European graffiti, for example, while some of it is very good, a lot of it is very sweet and friendly compared to L. A. graff which by comparison looks very angry or at least has attitude with a capital "A."
13. To combat the rise in graffiti, California has put some harsh anti-graffiti laws in place. Do you think this will deter graffiti? Do you think there is an appropriate punishment for graffiti?
Much of the recent legislation borders on hysteria and will do more harm than good. For example, it is a common story that there are businesses whose walls were getting hit with tags and gang graffiti, so they let a crew do an production on the wall and be responsible for maintaining it. That tended to help the problem, but the city is idiotically threatening those businesses with fines unless they comply with very unwieldy permitting procedures. This will not cut back graffiti and only make the city a duller, uglier place. For the most current information on the present legislation issues, go to ICUART.com.
14. You briefly mention in your book that graffiti is present in the world of advertising. Many Fortune 500 companies including Ford, Pepsi (Mountain Dew), Nike, Sprint Nextel (Boost) use graffiti to reach the youth. Do you think this is sending conflicting messages to the young generation?
I don't think they are sending a conflicting message, because their message is "we are cool." It may not be anything more than an advertising ploy, but it's inevitable that whatever is considered cool will be used for merchandising. The good news is that more often now, companies are getting genuine writers to do the work. Look at the Boost Mobile support of Saber, Revok and Retna.
15. Graffiti L.A. is published by Abrams. Was it difficult to get your book published? Is the nature of the book difficult to sell to publishers?
It was not a shoe-in to get my book done, because they were very New York snotty at first, "Would anyone really be interested in L.A. graffiti?" So I had to present a strong case that what L.A. has is distinctive, deserved a history, and would be of interest to a world-wide audience. They have been pleased with the interest as it has turned out.
16. Are there future projects that you are working on?
Yes, but it's a bit early to talk about. I'm still seeing if I can gather the necessary material. If it pans out, it will be something else.