How Street Art Jumped the Pop Culture Gap – Part 2

As the culture moved away from the underground to the complete opposite, the styles began to evolve further. Now marking walls, rooftops and bridges wasn’t just for any youth with a can of paint, artists with designs of grandeur began to emerge. Tagging progressed into throw ups, which are bigger graphic letters usually in bubbles or with a three-dimensional aspect. These new markings usually occurred in two colours because this would make the writing easier and quicker to put up, after all what they were doing was still illegal and getting caught could lead to jail time. Artists who adopt this lifestyle believe that the danger adds to some of the excitement of what they do. Knowing that officers could chase them and that there were real consequences was part of the action and the culture, some even go as far to say that if you haven’t been chased on foot you are still yet to be a real graffiti artist.

Despite the notoriety and the constant pressure by law enforcement, writings continued to sprout all over the globe, with many non-US artists simulating what the pioneers in New York and San Francisco were doing. The throw ups quickly became status symbols as people in the graffiti community fought to write their names in as big and bold a style as possible all over the cities. Not only was the density and labour of the throw ups important, but the locations they were written on also had a hierarchy. As more and more people jumped aboard the growing underground scene, the masters began to take graffiti to the next level. This era saw great innovation as new aesthetics grew rapidly thanks to this healthy level of competition. Tags became throw ups, and throw ups became burners.


Burners are the large, vibrant time consuming and eye-catching words that leap from (or burn out of) the surface. Only the biggest names and the most capable artists would have the skills and know-how to make these. Soon entire billboards, whole over-ground trains and death-defying high points were swiftly decorated in litres of paint as everyone fought for a top spot. Groups of likeminded artists began to band together to form crews, who would venture out all at once in order to create greater and more impressive works, all while evading the police. The fusion of individual styles began as chaotic mixes became refined into one cohesive display.

The colour-rich burners with their 3D fonts became unavoidable, and this style is often still well known as graffiti style. Unlike the scribbling of subway tags, the general population could begin to see the skill and appreciate the effort undertaken in the graffiti subculture. And despite trying to wipe out the movement altogether, forcing artists to hunt for new ground actually pushed the culture forwards. Now with more visually appealing autographs, collectives of capable artists and a fight for the most public spots, graffiti spread over countless walls and rapidly into the minds of the public.