“Are there any books or films about graffiti and street art that you could recommend?” This is a question that often comes up. There’s a catalogue of sources, in fact, which each Graff Tour guide-in-training must study to earn their “badge.” It is comprehensive and covers various topics ranging from the history of graffiti to the current trends and issues associated with street art. Drawing from the catalogue, we put together a list of favorites (in no particular order) for you to check out.
The History of American Graffiti
Written by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon, “The History of American Graffiti” is widely considered the distinctive source on the subject. With over one thousand photographs, this 400-page book follows the movement’s rise from the early days of bombing subway cars in Philadelphia and New York City to its evolution into a legitimate form of artistic expression. In addition to epicenters like NYC and Los Angeles, it considers Wisconsin, Denver, Nashville, Washington D.C., unsuspecting areas where graffiti culture flourished. Profiles of prominent figures as well as lesser-known trailblazers reveal insider-stories and individual views and experiences. Clear a sizable spot on your bookshelf for this one.
Burners Teamgraffiti Movies & Documentaries 2018
- Running gag from the movie “Office Space”, directed by Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead). TPS report was a piece of mindless paperwork that the main character forgot to send with the new cover sheet (per memo)and is reminded of relentlessly (didn’t you get my email) in the opening scene in the movie.
- Critic’s Picks: The Best Movies of 2020 January 9, 2021; The 10 Best Episodes of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ January 9, 2021 The Real Story and the Ending of ‘Pieces of a Woman.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
There’s so much we can say about Banksy’s documentary (mockumentary?) film “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which follows Theirry Guetta, a French filmmaker whose obsession with street art leads him to pursue his own career as a street artist under the nom de guerre Mr. Brainwash. In his quest for fame and fortune, Guetta rubs shoulders with just about everyone – Bansky, Shepard Fairy, Invader, and many others. Funny and thought provoking, the film addresses the hype, enigmatic nature, and commodification, which surrounds the underground art movement and its major players. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” received critical praise and was nominated for an Academy Award. This is one of those films that reveals more of its self with every watch.
Burners Teamgraffiti Movies & Documentaries On Netflix
The film is definitely worth watching, although it's padded with some fluff to make it feature length. If they took out a half hour of fluff and replaced it with more scientific facts and details, that would have been money better spent than all the fancy graphics in the movie. But, people watch movies like this to be entertained, so maybe I'm.
Released in 1983 by director Tony Silver and producer Henry Chalfant, “Style Wars” is the first documentary film to consider the vibrant culture of Hip-Hop through graffiti, rapping, and breakdancing. Footage captures the raw, urban landscape of New York City during the 80s when subway cars and city buildings doubled as canvases for graffiti writers. The main protagonists are teenage boys, some even younger who formed a creative coalition that was often at odds with police, the NYC transit authority, and NYC mayor Edward Koch. Today, “Style Wars” is considered a historical artifact representing the golden age of graffiti.
Directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard, the documentary “Beautiful Losers” focuses on a collective of underground artists who emerged during the 1990s. Many came from unconventional backgrounds – graffiti, skateboarding, punk rock, and hip-hop while some had formal art training. What these artists do have in common is a do-it-yourself approach to art making, which defies contemporary art’s rigid systems of exhibition and value. Artist profiles include Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Stephen ‘Espo’ Powers, Clare Rojas, Cheryl Duncan, and Mike Mills.
The Faith of Graffiti
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Norman Mailer wrote the essay “The Faith of Graffiti” in 1974 when the movement was just taking off in New York City. Understanding graffiti as art, Mailer was one of the first to evaluate its cultural and social significance. Teenage vandals are elevated to urban revolutionaries fighting for a new kind of art. Now considered a classic, the essay is accompanied by Jon Naar’s stunning photographs. The images served as a catalogue showing the different styles and trends observed of the time.
Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant’s acclaimed book “Subway Art” is an intimate portrait of NYC’s graffiti scene during the 70s and 80s. Here is a special case when you absolutely should judge a book by its cover (we like the first edition’s best). Armed with a spray can, an urban youth straddles two subway cars in an attempt to get his name up. Sensed in this collection of photographs of NYC’s subway system is a raw energy and creative force like never before. The book focuses on burners – whole car or top-to-bottom pieces, and it’s safe to say that most of the featured pieces no longer exists. Thus, these images stand in as cultural icons representing the first generation of graffiti and its pioneers.
Burners Teamgraffiti Movies & Documentaries 2017
The World Atlas of Graffiti and Street Art
Published in 2013, “The World Atlas of Graffiti and Street Art” chronicles the movement as it exists in different areas throughout the world. Written by Rafael Schacter, it is organized geographically by city and country, spotlighting today’s most important artists – Os Gemeos in Brazil, Anthony Lister in Australia, Banksy in London, and JR in Paris. Attention is paid to “commissioned” city artworks and their connections with the urban environment, city residents, and local culture. This book offers an insightful view of the rich and dynamic fabric that makes up the global graffiti and street art community.
Tresspass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art
In 2001, Marc and Sara Schiller started Wooster Collective, a pioneering website devoted to documenting street art. Working with author Carlo McCormick, they curated “Tresspass,” a comprehensive book offering a historical overview of street art’s rise to one of contemporary art’s most significant movements. It covers four generation of artists, examining how particular techniques, tendencies and styles defy art paradigms and the law. Another great aspect about Tresspass its acknowledgement of the connection between more institutionalized artists Jenny Holzer, Gordon Matta-Clarke and Keith Haring and Blu, Banksy, and Faile – all were/are producing unsanctioned art in urban spaces.
Directed by Jon Reiss, “Bomb It” is a historical documentary about graffiti complete with rare footage and interviews from the movement’s earliest days through the present. Legends Taki 183, Stay High 149, and Cope 2 are featured alongside today’s biggest names such as Revok and Mear One. Illustrating graffiti’s global impact, “Bomb It” tracks street culture through New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, London, Paris, Tijuana, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hampburg, Berlin, Cape Town, Saõ Paulo, and Tokyo.
Read a plot synopsis of Walter Hill’s cult-cult classic “The Warriors,” and you may think “what does this film have to do with graffiti and street art?” Based on Sol Yurick’s novel of the same name, the film’ story is about gang rivalries in New York City in 1979. Remember, graffiti was flourishing at time. So as scenes move from Pelham Bay Park to Coney Island to the Bronx, often by subway car, we get to see work by Iz the Wiz, Spear, Kado, and Nic 707.
If these sources suggest anything, it’s that the narrative of graffiti and street art is complex, deep, and still unfolding. Today, application of labels and categorization is impossible, because artists operate simultaneously inside and outside the system. We set out to make a starter list of books and films, which addresses the movement’s historical origins as well as today’s trends and impulses. And if you have a favorite, we’d loved to hear about it.
Burners Teamgraffiti Movies & Documentaries 2019
A 1992 conversation with Joe Biden
As Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on January 20th, Media Burn is highlighting a 1992 interview with the former Senator. Continue reading
Hot Video with Chicago Conspiracy
Never-before-released video of the Chicago Eight now brought to the public eye after 50 years Aaron Sorkin’s recent film, The Trial of the Chicago 7, has revived interest in the historical events which took place in Chicago between 1968 and 1970. During the entire trial between September 1969 and February 1970, seven of the eight defendants (Bobby Seale had been removed from the trial and left Chicago) gathered as a complete group only twice. The following video is a … Continue reading
Virtual Talks with Video Activists: Screening and Discussion of The End of the Nightstick
Jan 28: Join Media Burn and the original filmmakers for a screening of The End of the Nightstick, a 1993 film documenting police brutality in Chicago. Continue reading
Celebrating living legend Timuel Black on his 102nd Birthday
This week, Chicago historian and activist Timuel Black celebrated his 102nd birthday. Among his long list of accomplishments, Black brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak at University of Chicago in 1956, he worked on a campaign to get Harold Washington elected as Chicago’s mayor, and he fought tirelessly to end segregation in Chicago’s public schools. As he told Chicago Magazine, the secret to a long life is “Play some good music, drink a little Merlot, get some sleep, and … Continue reading
“Fast Eddie” heads to jail a second time
For decades, “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak has been a controversial Chicago political powerhouse. Known for being a key figure in the Council Wars as one of the “three Eddies” who led a coalition of white aldermen intent on blocking Mayor Harold Washington’s initiatives, he already went to prison in 2008 for bribery. Now, Vrdolyak, 83, is once again heading to prison on charges of tax evasion stemming from fraudulent legal fees charged to the City of Chicago in the 1990s. In … Continue reading
Streaming 11/27-12/17: LINCOLN IS CRYING Documentary
LINCOLN IS CRYING: The Grifters, Grafters & Governors of Illinois is a scathing indictment of politics in the “Land of Lincoln”…and it’s funny too. The new award-winning documentary (Best Documentary Winner at the 2020 Colorado International Activism Film Festival) from filmmakers John Davies and Brian Kallies presents a humorous yet poignant look at the pervasive, deep-rooted culture of political corruption in Illinois. Why focus on Illinois? Well, it’s the most corrupt state in America and home to Chicago, the most corrupt city in … Continue reading
Streaming now: Joan Jett Blakk for President
At the heights of the AIDS epidemic, Joan Jett Blakk, the drag persona of performer and activist Terence Smith, ran a satirical campaign for mayor of Chicago and then later for President of the United States on the Queer Nation Party platform. Using hilarious banter and guerrilla tactics to bring queer issues to the national stage, Candidate Blakk made it all the way to the floor of the 1992 Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden. This 65-minute program, curated … Continue reading
12/3/20: Virtual Talks with Video Activists: South Side Home Movie Project with Ashley O’Shay
December 3: screening and discussion with the South Side Home Movie Project and filmmaker Ashley O’Shay. Continue reading
Celebrate election day with vintage political films
Just in time for election day, Media Burn, in partnership with Chicago Filmmakers and Chicago Film Archives, is pleased to present a screening and discussion with two astute chroniclers of presidential elections past. CHASING VOTES, CHASING SHADOWS is a collection of vintage political films by Bill Stamets and Peter Kuttner. Stamets shadows presidential candidates on the campaign trail through an ironic ethnographic lens examining the civic theater of “turning every human contact into a photo opportunity,” while Kuttner explores political … Continue reading
An unfiltered look at the Chicago 7 trial
Aaron Sorkin’s new film, The Trial of the Chicago 7, has brought renewed attention to a landmark event in Chicago and national history. Opinions have varied as to the film’s stylistic merit, but if you plan to see it, you owe it to yourself to get a deeper and more accurate understanding of the facts and the context. Tales of Hoffman, a short 2001 documentary demo produced by Matthew Palm and Tom Weinberg with Joel Cohen, Bob Hercules and Jim … Continue reading