The Politics of LA Tagging

by missus boobella

For the two or so years I’ve been living in Los Angeles (and despite my complaints, I consider myself a dedicated transplant), I’ve noticed an increase in tagging, especially but not limited to politically-minded tagging.

The tagging I’ve noticed isn’t just located in Southeast Los Angeles; it’s everywhere. Anti-folkhero, my lovely boyfriend, attributes the rise of tagging in West LA to local middle schools that bus in students. While I may not agree, it can’t be argued that 14 year olds may be the contributors of much of the graffiti around Los Angeles. Just read this article from the LA Times about a young student who tagged a bus while the mayor of Los Angeles was sitting inside.

My attitude towards tagging is conflicted. If 14 year olds are wandering the streets of Los Angeles with a can of spray paint, I do think whatever artistic credibility can be attached to adding some color to the city is better than ingesting drugs, though the two probably have a strong correlation.

I also realize that tagging is just the edge of a very large movement in art towards legitimizing what has often been considered debased and amateur, much like comic books have been making the shift towards literary recognition in the past 30 years. So large is the movement, there is no way I could address the artistic and cultural ramifications of ‘street art’ except to say that, as I’ve already said, I’ve been noticing more and more of it on the streets of Los Angeles.

Below are some samples. First, standard tagging on Main Street in Santa Monica. This wall faces a main intersection and was originally painted to imitate, I guess, the front of a Mexican home. I took this picture because this intersection is in a nice area of Santa Monica, if there even is such a thing as a bad area in Santa Monica.

Standard Tagging

A few weeks ago, there was a protest on Westwood Blvd against the possibility of military action in Iran. I’ve read statistics that Iranians comprise around 30% of the population of Westwood; and Los Angeles has the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran. The day after the protest, I noticed these:

Don’t Bomb Iran Electrical

Don’t Bomb Iran Bench

What I find interesting about these two tags is the question of who spray-painted the messages? I watched part of the protest and the majority of those walking the street were elderly Iranians. It was led, as far as I could tell, by an old Iranian man in a wheelchair, flag of Iran proudly in hand. Whoever tagged this was not the 14 year old boy who scribbled an indecipherable word onto a bus window.

Finally, for some comedic value, Anti- found this message on our garbage dump. Behind his apartment is a long alley that stretches much of the length of Little Santa Monica, and has been home to countless wandering homeless. We’ve also noticed infrequently young boys running around with pellet guns and expensive zip up hoodies. They might be the culprit of the surrounding tags; but the street artist responsible for the centerpiece of this picture? Probably a neighbor in his or her early twenties would be my guess.

Tagging Ghetto

I would like to agree with whoever added that sweet little message to the ongoing conversation on our garbage dump, but judging by the emergence of these kinds of artistic endeavors as ‘street art’, it may not necessarily be true. Just look at Swindle Magazine, a magazine begun by Shepard Fairey and Roger Gastman, both graffiti artists of different sorts. Or check out this exhibition in Brooklyn about graffiti art. Examples of the rising legitimacy of ‘street art’ is abundant and indicative of a different truth: tagging may very well get you out of the ghetto.

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3 Comments

Filed under barn, barn stormer, barnstormer, graffiti, iran, iranian, la, los angeles, politics, stormer, taggin, tagging, west la, west los angeles, westwood

3 responses to “The Politics of LA Tagging

  1. Fascinating. I always thought that a certain percent of the young people who tag have a larger political understanding. Tagging is a way to grind an axe publicly. When I was a young man my tag was BIKE, or WORSHIP BIKE, as agitprop against cars. I feel these “angry young artists.”

  2. FOO

    im 17 i live in florida.
    i feel that graffiti is a art to be learned. if u look at artists like seek or gesus krist they devoloped these skills over years and years. its about sketches, you draw and draw in your black book untill u come up with a message or a design then you go and paint it. if its good or your message is felt by people that see it you gain respect or street credit. you can see lots of art at bombingscience.com …graffiti could be the voice needed to get the message across.. you say what message???????? well thats all up to the artist and how dedicated to it they are…. like a over pass every body will see.. its risky but if done without being caught can be fucking awsome…everybody that drives by will see it.. it can be a political message or a love message….anything man
    FOO

  3. FOO

    i am hip hops visual voice

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