book of the month: the art of spray paint

This month’s book is The Art of Spray Paint by Lori Zimmer. Lori is a New York-based curator and writer who has created Art Nerd New York, an art history guide for the city.

A good read if:

-you’re trying to learn more about more contemporary art

-you’re interested in street art & want to know more about the artists behind the murals

(courtesy of Barnes & Nobles)

I’m extremely interested in counter-culture art movements, particularly street art. This book is a great, visual introduction to how this art is made, with a bit of history. The graffiti movement rose during the 1970s and 80s in Chicago and NYC, due to its affordable medium (i.e. the spray paint can) and spontaneity. It was a way for people to engage with their surroundings, as well as voice their concerns and individuality. To me, street art is inherently political because of its beginnings (and current role in our cities, but more on that later). Right when graffiti was popping up in New York City trains and walls, the Anti-Graffiti Task Force set out to eliminate the tags, because the economy was on the decline and this action would supposedly ‘clean up’ bad neighborhoods. The different boroughs at this time experienced hip-hop, as a deep cultural movement that incorporated graffiti to delineate groups such as Afrika Bambaataa, among many. Along the same lines, Crass, an anarcho punk band, would spray paint words of resistance in the London Underground. They spread messages of political action, really solidifying the punk subculture that promoted animal rights, feminism, and environmental activism.

Easy to use, spontaneous, easy to carry- and that’s just the beauty of the spray paint can. Adding layers of stencils to the mix, or creating a more ‘traditional’ art like still- life paintings, the possibilities to create a masterpiece out of a mere wall are endless!

L.A. based artist Tristan Eaton (No Limit: Borås, Sweden)

(image from

Eaton is also a toy designer.

“The Story of My Life” Logan Hicks (Houston & Bowery NYC)

(image courtesy of

Hicks used 5 layers for this piece, with 210 stencils per layer!

Hueman (Allison Torneros) Wynwood Walls

(image courtesy of

She was one of the first artists to paint following the lift of the L.A. ban on street art.

Brusk (Djerbahood Project Tunisia)

(image courtesy of official Djerbahood)

The Djerbahood is an “open-sky museum” with 150 street artists from 30 different nationalities.


Of course, there is an ever-growing dialogue about gentrification and commodifying street art in struggling neighborhoods. But by the very inherent history of graffiti, this art is supposed to be wherever the artist damn pleases. It brings in the audience, asking them to pay close attention to their surroundings and to find beauty in everyday life. Like many issues, I think it should be taken in a case-by-case analysis, taking into special account locals’ opinions. Are those people being driven out by the construction of shiny new apartments? (Think about the presence of an entire corporation like Amazon in Seattle) Or are locally-owned businesses just setting up shop, but creating a long-standing, healthy relationship with the pre-existing community? This is just a surface-level blurb into this issue, but as street art is political.