Graffiti has become a major artistic movement, leaving its indelible stamp on cities worldwide. In June, graffiti historian Alan Ket, cofounder of the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood, released his new book, The Wide World of Graffiti, which digs into the global phenomenon of graffiti and its profound cultural impact.
The work explores the origins, evolution, and diverse groups of artists involved in this art form, shedding light on its significance in various world cities, including Miami. With a foreword by Brazilian street artist Osgemeos, this work explores the world of graffiti from the late 1960s to today.
Noting a "lack of comprehensive documentation on the subject," Ket embarked on a mission to uncover the history of the rise of graffiti as a worldwide phenomenon.
"The story of how graffiti became a global cultural phenomenon hadn't been told yet, and sharing this information is important in order for the fans and the world to know who, how, and why this art movement is so prevalent today," Ket explains.
Drawing from his personal experience and interactions with innovators and pioneers throughout his life, Ket felt prepared to chronicle this influential art movement. The aim was to allow fans and the general public to understand this ubiquitous art form's origins, motivations, and significance.
Published by Phaidon, The Wide World of Graffiti explores various key aspects of the graffiti movement, including murals, tattoo artists, graphic designers, and explorers. The Museum of Graffiti cofounder emphasized the debt owed to pioneering graffiti artist Lee Quiñones, "who created some of the most cherished murals in the 1980s and 1990s in New York City," he says.
While the book doesn't focus specifically on the Miami graffiti scene, Ket acknowledges the presence of notable Miami-based artists who have made significant contributions to the art form. The book features artists such as Rasterms, Abstrk, June, Aholsniffsglue, and Jel Martinez. "The artists included are some of the best in the world today," he says.
Junk Lainez, a Miami artist known for his graffiti writing and a member of the FDC crew, receives a prominent spotlight in Ket's book. The author highlights Lainez's mastery of tattoo art, recognizing his decades-long dedication and the contributions he has made to the graffiti scene.
"This artist has been painting for decades, is a master of his craft, and deserves the recognition."
One of the significant challenges the graffiti specialist faced while creating the book was selecting unseen photographs that capture the essence of graffiti's evolution.
He explains, "This was difficult, and it required lots of research and lots of communication with artists who normally do not share these images as a result of the illegality of the art form."
"The selection process," he continues, "started with selecting the artists that are prolific and open to finally sharing their work. The older photographs allow us all to see the incredible pioneers of this movement and to see the trajectory of development of painting styles and techniques."
Addressing the societal opposition that graffiti artists often face,
The Wide World of Graffiti tackles topics such as incarceration and cities' harsh treatment of artists. It brings attention to the struggles faced by artists like Ian Debeer, known as Hert, who was sentenced to a year in prison and faced restrictions on creating art even after release. The book also highlights the experiences of Desa from New York City, showcasing the harm caused by the criminalization of street graffiti.
To provide a unique perspective on the subject, Ket selected Osgemeos to write the foreword for his book. "Osgemeos was a natural choice as they also love graffiti and view the growth and development as something very positive for the world," Ket explains.
Ket says that since its release, The Wide World of Graffiti has received a positive response from the art and culture community. As an expert in the field, he believes that one of the most important messages readers will take away from his book is that graffiti is meant to be appreciated and experienced by everyone.
The Wide World of Graffiti chronicles the origins of the graffiti movement, tracing its evolution and celebrating the artists who've shaped this art movement.
– Jonel Juste, ArtburstMiami.com
The Wide World of Graffiti is available at the Museum of Graffiti (276 NW 26th St., Miami) and bookstores nationwide.