Part four of a series on Detroit’s graffiti: written messages
Over the past few weeks I’ve written a series of entries on the variety of graffiti found throughout the city of Detroit. In part one I described the environment where it can be found, which included the interior of abandoned buildings, the underside of overpasses and many other locations. In part two I presented an array of highly detailed caricatures and distinct images, some quite large and colorful. The third in the series focused on the many artfully designed names and letter styles used to create the writer’s name. In this entry, the fourth in the series on Detroit graffiti, I’ll be spotlighting written messages I’ve come across while bicycling throughout the city.
I believe that all graffiti has a message, no matter how obscure the image or words may be. The message could be political in nature, conveyed through a simple or multifaceted image or tag line. A stylized signature may tell viewers “Hey, I was here”. A one-color, unique moniker may not represent anything more than the creator’s need for attention, and the creator’s tag sprayed on the side of a railroad car could travel across the country to be seen by millions. Some images may be written on a wall for nothing more than to create mystique or debate of its origin and meaning. Others could be simply sprayed words of wisdom or random musings of a street prophet scrawled from the tip of a sharpie onto the side of a boarded structure.
Not all the messages I’ve spotted in my travels were created in traditional style graffiti, which incorporates multi-colors, flowing letters and well-defined graphic elements. Although those fluid styles are easily found, most of what I’ve seen appeared to be hastily sprayed painted messages on a variety of surfaces from abandoned storefronts to utility boxes. I have also noticed quite a few graffiti decals and stickers on traffic signs, bus shelters and other high-traffic areas. This fairly simple, common form of tagging, (made somewhat popular by the Obey sticker campaign) makes it easy for a writer to spread their message quickly and far. Some writers have sketched a design or scribbled messages onto plain adhesive labels that could have been purchased at the local office supply store, and quickly slapped them up.
Certain messages I’ve seen can be tough to understand, while others are clear, concise and meaningful. Take a look at a few of the many graffiti messages I’ve spotted while cycling in Detroit.
Reminder – click on any image to view larger.