If you’re at all familiar with graffiti culture, then Keith Haring, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and GONZO247 are probably household names. These artists have left their mark on walls around the world. Whether to spread social, political, or enigmatic messages to the masses, their work has become an integral part of urban landscapes.
But what about the originators of the graffiti and street art scene?
On Thursday, June 23, The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, a breathtaking Spanish Gothic-style venue, will be screening Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence. Presented by International Documentary Association and Juxtapoz Magazine, this documentary weaves a never before seen look at the history of graffiti’s emergence in society, and showcases the first generation of writers who were at the forefront of the revolution.
The film, which has a 350+ page companion book of the same title, were imagined and directed by Roger Gastman, with renowned filmmaker John Waters as the narrator. It will give audiences an extraordinary view into the lives of graffiti creators such as CORNBREAD, LSD OM, and TAKI 183. For many of these artists, Wall Writers is the first time they’ve ever been interviewed on camera.
Aside from interviews with the originators, the film will also feature statements from historians, politicians and journalists who witnessed the uprising firsthand.
During the late 1960s and early ’70’s, before the age of ever-present video surveillance and digital escapism, graffiti culture thrived and played a significant role in American culture.
Graffiti writers had humble beginnings, first tagging their names on walls (as well as any surface available), typically an alias combined with a street number. Entire cities soon became canvasses which mirrored the tensions of the times. Rebellion, social protest, or simply trying to get noticed were the motivations behind their exploits.
They weren’t junkies or involved in gang wars, they just wrote on walls.
Darryl McCray, better known as CORNBREAD, is often credited with being one of the very first graffiti writers on the scene. He tagged his name all over North Philadelphia. As the story goes, he got involved with vandalizing public spaces after crushing on a girl named Cynthia. This led him to writing “Cornbread Loves Cynthia” all over the city.
GRAFFITI AND STREET ART TODAY ARE LARGELY CONSIDERED THE ROCK N’ ROLL OF VISUAL ART, AND WALL WRITERS IS THE STORY OF ITS BIRTH FROM PHILADELPHIA AND NEW YORK CITY DURING 1967 TO 1973. WALL WRITERS IS AN EXCLUSIVE ACCOUNT OF THE BEGINNINGS OF THE LARGEST ART MOVEMENT OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
Following the screening, there will be a Q&A session led by Cheech Marin which will feature Gastman, TAKI183 and KOOL KLEPTO KIDD.