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Break-dance or Break-dancing is a popular style of streetdance. It started in the very late 60’s and exploded in the 70’s and 80’s amongst large populations of city living youth. However, over the years break-dancing has borrowed freely from all types of dances and martial arts. You only need to watch a break-dancer for a few moments before you start to see resemblances of kung fu moves within the dance arsenal of a Bboy or Bgirl.
One of the first persons how started with break-dancing when it was upcoming was James Brown. In 1969 he enjoyed huge success with his smash hit ‘Get on the Good Hood’. Not longer after this point break-dancing was popularized with various musical changes with impactes the break-dancing community forever. By 1977 various break-dancing crews were formed around New York City.
From this time several crews came up with a new form of break-dancing which emerged can be recognized from the old style of break-dancing by an assortment of new aerobic moves. Head spins, hand spins and flips were now becoming common practice.
Today you can see break-dancing making its way into the mainstream. Popular artists are introducing the break-dancing elements into their hip hop and pop videos and more and more dance schools are offering it as a dance option since the dance has been further popularized by and assortment of Hollywood movies.
In Spain, the history of Graffiti began a little bit different from the one of other European countries that have been influenced by the United States.
It started in Madrid in the 1980s with a kind of post-Francoism movement, that was called “la Movida madrileña”, and soon enlarged to “la Movida española”. The countercultural movement started in the first years of Spain’s transition after the dictatorship and ended in the late 1980ies. In connection with that young people began to write their names everywhere, on walls in the street, in the metro, wherever. First they used simple felt-tips, later on the use of aerosols was employed.
Juan Carlos Argüello aka “Muelle” was one of those people and was the first that appeared on the picture around the year 1980. His emblem was the word “muelle” (engl. ‛spring’) combined with a drawing of a spring that ended in an arrow (sp. flecha) and the letter “R” that was sourrounded by a circle. Due to its symbolic this graffiti style, that was later as well adopted by other painters, is also known as “estilo flechero” and forms part of the so-called “Graffiti autóctono madrileño”.
After Muelle started with his writing, this new form of self-expression spread through the streets of Madrid. Other important writers from this graffiti movement are Bleck and Glub.
Already at this time it has been a riotous movement, but was also involving a high degree of respect between the graffiti writers themselves. Even though the origin of the arty form of Graffiti writing is attributed to the United States, this autonomous movement had not been influenced by any kind of media transmitting the existence of a similar act in the USA or other European countries.
The most important intention of those graffiti writers was the “getting up”. In other words the aim that their emblem on the walls would be seen by as many people as possible and by achieving this, to get to fame, a main element of the Graffiti philosophy. The signature is in this case the logotype of the writers, their business card that can be easily recognized due to the writings’ clear forms and its treatment with care during its process of formation. With it, it makes the signature to the most important element in this graffiti style that is very conspicuous. Also because of the use of special symbols, like Muelle’s spring, bubbles or even symbols to signal against any kind of system, as advertising that are supposed to catch the attention of the observer putting out the name of the artist.
The materials they used were from a view of nowadays rather rudimentary. Among them were “Edding” felt-tips, shoe polishes and paint sprays. Also they made their own utensils, adapting for example pens with a wider tip using gasoline burners to create this effect or they prepared the nozzles of the sprays to achieve a wider marking style. During this time it was more common to steal the equipment from big warehouses, car shops or stationers. Today there are still some artists remaining that practice this kind of style.
During the years 1982 and 1983 forms that were more similar to those of the United States and other European countries spread over the Spanish Graffiti culture. Such as graffiti pieces and the painting of trains. Important groups were for example QSC Kaos or. Later on there were SPC and PTVunder the most important. In the 90ties groups that were outstanding were among others CEX, GAZ or Gipsy Kings.
The Graffiti 90ties in Spain were coined massively by the emerging of the brand “Montana Colors” that produced for the first time paint sprays specifically made for Graffiti. Due to its high quality and its low price, making the aerosols accessible for every writer, this appearance stimulated the movement.
Go to Graffiti in Barcelona
“Barcelona graffiti is really colourful and free.” (Zosen)
Important pioneers of the Graffiti culture in Barcelona have been the crew Trepax in the 1980ties which were known for their stencil art. They were inspired by a video they saw about artists in Paris that were using stencils to make Graffiti. In the 1990ties the TSK crew became one of the most important among the Graffiti writers. Others important figures were DTY or A3.
Around the years 1992 and 1993, there has been an explosion of Barcelona’s Graffiti scene with the birth of MTV and the hip hop culture swapping over from the USA. As a consequence people from the periphery started to write. Before that time, the Graffiti scene in Barcelona was more like a kind of family where everybody knew each other due to the small number of people sharing that hobby. Though before, there even have been legal walls in the subway which stopped with the transformation and regeneration process of the city owing to the Olympics in 1992. In the late 90ties Barcelona’s Graffiti writers started to cross the borders of the common Graffiti art and started experimenting with colors and techniques so that to Barcelonese Graffiti nowadays is referred with attributes like colorful and free.
The golden age of Graffiti in Barcelona is nominated to the years 2001 till 2005.
Today, Barcelona is known for its extention of Graffiti spread all over the city. You can find Graffiti on walls, trains, in art gallerys, even legally painted on the shutters of shops. The last space is very common in Barcelona and out of it, collectives like “Persianes Lliures” and “Entrotlla’t” came into being. These projects represent a way for writers to run free their creativity in a legal way, which also brings the writers some income through their passion.
Though, the number of Graffiti writings drew down tremendously during the last years. A change in Barcelonas policy regarding the illegal produced Graffiti is the reason. Like in other cities, there have been provided some legal walls, such as those at “Las tres chimineas” at Paral-lel, as a measure of reduction of the illegal paintings. Lately, the prosecution of Graffiti on the streets assumed greater proportions with the imposition of fines for those shopkeepers who allow artists to paint on their shutters.
In the following we want to present some artists that are representative for Barcelona’s graffiti scene.
El Pez – The happy style
The writer Pez, born in Barcelona in 1976, made a himself a name all over Europe for his special fish symbol that first appeared next to one of his tags and then later became the signature itself. The fish emblem had a special feature: a huge smile. This characteristic he introduced because he wanted to pass on good vibes to its observer.
He started writing in 1999 in the suburbs of Barcelona and later on pursued this activity while travelling in European countries. Due to his big presence in the streets, he rose very quickly and got to fame during a few years. Later on he also made use of other animal figures, like elephants or giraffes, applying to each of them the big smile of its first character. Owing to this individuality the style became to be known as “Barcelona Happy Style”.
The originally Argentinian writer Zosen moved to Barcelona in the year1989. One year before he had started writing in his home town Buenos Aires, during the same time as he began skating. When he came to Barcelona, he was one of the few people practicing Graffiti. The scene to that time was more underground and his influences he self attributes to the Graffiti artists of his neighborhood.
Now he’s known all over the world, for his individual art that’s often politically inspired. Furthermore he’s wearing a mask to effect that people focus more on his art than on himself, rejecting the trend that to the artists’ image is payed more intention than to the art itself. His works are exhibited in several gallerys and murals over the world. In April for example he’s going to be part of the street art exhibiton “Barcelonas finest” in Paris, together with the artists Kenor, Göla and H101. Besides his own practicing, he also organizes Graffiti workshops.
MONTANA COLORS – A little aerosol story.
The Barcelonese company Montana Colors are today the leaders of the spray paint market in Europe. Founded in 1994 in Barcelona, Montana Colors S.L. was the first company to produce paint sprays that were especially made for graffiti writers. It all began with a marketing research of one of the employees of the paint spray company Felton. Jordi Rubio discovered while doing his research that one shop which was selling their paint had above-average turnover. On his search for the reason behind, he got to know the famous graffiti artists Kapi and Moockie, who worked in this shop of garden articles. He discovered that the new urban phenomenon Graffiti was at the bottom of everything and that Kapi was the reason for young people being drawn in this shop to buy colors. Based on his new knowledge Jordi Rubio proposed to his company the production of special Graffiti articles, which was denied. The consequence was that Jordi stepped out of the company to found his own company together with his colleague Miquel Galea. Montana Colors S.L. was born.
With the help of Moockie and Kapi they developed the first paint spray that was especially adapted to the needs of a “grafitero”. The result was impressive and the cans started to be sold in the legendary “Game Over Shop”, later called “the Bunker” the first shop of Barcelona that was specialized in Graffiti items. Over time writers of other European countries came to Barcelona to collect the spray cans and Montana Colors started exporting in 1995. After the development of the first spray further ones followed, such as “Montana Hardcore”, always innovated and customized for the specific requirement of Graffiti painters.
Today Montana Colors paint is very popular between Graffiti writers of the whole world because of its high quality so that even artists of the USA are importing “the best aerosol you can get”.
The very first origins of Graffiti can be dated back to the inscriptions been made since the time of the Roman Empire, though it also can be referred to cave paintings and pictographs that have been already made 30000 years BC. But that’s not what we want to talk about in our blog. Our point of interest is the urban art form of Graffiti writing and painting.
Graffiti writing is one of the four pillars of Hip Hop culture, which originates in the United States in the late 1970s. Although being an important element of Hip Hop, its early forms already started in the late 1960s. Political activists, same as gangs used this form of expression to bring their statements out on the streets. Later on, the first signatures of writers like Top Cat and Cornbread of Philadelphia appeared.
In the 1970s the center of Graffiti moved to New York where it should come together with Hip Hop Culture and become one of its basic elements. The motivation of this fusion was on the one hand that Graffiti painters devoted themselves also to other components of Hip Hop, as well as that both, Graffiti and Hip Hop, have been practiced in the same areas. Nowadays, even though Graffiti does not have to mean Hip Hop at the same time, it is seen as a visual expression of Rap Music.
Simultaneously, to the development in the USA, Graffiti in Europe had it early beginnings. There are several forms that can be seen as early forms of Graffiti in Europe. One of the oldest appearances have been the texts of Nicolas Edme Restif de la Bretonne which he scratched in Parisian walls and bridges in the late 1780ties. Another famous example is the sentence “Kilroy was here” that US soldiers brought back from Europe after the 2nd World War.
Nevertheless, the first graffiti forms most similar to the today’s state of Graffiti art, are some paintings in shape of pears that appeared in Paris in the 1830ties, made by street urchins.
In the late 1970ties and early 1980ties tags in Europe were mostly used by punks before the Hip Hop wave swapped over from the USA bringing the American way of Graffiti, also in the 80ties. Here we can see that Graffiti not always has been related with Hip Hop but also with other cultures and music styles.
Go to Graffiti in Spain
Barcelona has come to be known in the skateboarding community as the world capital for skateboarding. Its smooth streets, amazing stateable terrain, relaxed culture and friendly locals offer one of the worlds greatest street skateboarding spots. Every spot is easy accessible for skaters by the underground metro network.
Hip hop and skateboarding cultures have always been connected. The Skate & Urban Street Culture Tour will focus on the birth and development of skate culture and locations in Catalunya, while exposing some important hip hop spots in the city of Barcelona along the way.
Of the 4 pillars of hip-hop (dj-ing, graffiti, break-dance and rap), the Skate & Urban Street Culture Tour will mostly zoom in on Barcelona’s graffiti and break-dance movements. The skate part of the tour will travel through time, starting from the notorious skate scene of the Skatepark de Arenys de Munt in the late 70’s up in the hills of northern Catalunya, leading all the way to the current movement in the center of El Raval.
On the Skate & Urban Street Culture Tour we don’t walk… we skate!