|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/06/04 10:31 视听英语Ladder AI杂志|
Graffiti is going mainstream as more and more “street artists” get recognition for their talents.
As long as we’ve had walls and writing, we’ve had graffiti. Writing over 4,000 years old has been found carved on walls in Egypt, and the buildings of ancient Rome were often covered with political messages. In fact, the word “graffiti” comes from the ancient Greek word for “to write”.
Fast-forward to New York in the 1950s. Street gangs marked their territory with symbols – warnings to rival gangs and the police. Written in marker pen or spray paint, these designs were purely functional but they gradually made way for more artistic work.
By the late 1970s, buildings and subway cars were covered with spray-painted “tags” – the stylized signatures of illicit painters. Invisible during the day, the taggers would come out at night to cover the city with ink and paint. In addition to their signatures, the taggers would also create wild, colorful images often with political and social messages. “Graffiti is a way for people to express themselves when they don’t feel they can do so publicly,” says Joe Austin, a professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University.
While the taggers see their work as street art, the authorities tend to see it as vandalism. Taggers face fines, community service and even jail time. Their works are usually painted over quickly, and cities around the world spend an estimated $30 billion a year to remove graffiti.
But there are private citizens who support graffiti, saying it’s a welcome addition to otherwise dull and featureless streets. Give Graffiti The Thumbs Up, a Chicago-based organization, is buying ads to try to influence public opinion with their slogan “Keep America Colorful.”
More recently, graffiti has gone mainstream. Modern art museums regularly display photos of notable graffiti, and some have invited street artists to come in and create original works within the museums themselves. “It’s kind of funny to think that I’ve got work hanging in a museum, but I still have to keep an eye out for the police, ” says one artist.
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