The Golden Age of Gang Graffiti

January 3, 2007 on 7:16 am | In global news | Comments Off on The Golden Age of Gang Graffiti

Florencia ’71. Photo by KID DEUCE.

The most frequent question I get asked by strangers, when I tell them I’m interested in graffiti, is “isn’t that stuff all gang-related?” It’s hard sometimes to explain the difference between gang graffiti and the graf culture that emerged from the hip hop movement, though the difference is obvious to anyone who pays attention. I’m usually forced to sum it up with a broad generalization like “you can tell gang graffiti by the lack of artistry.”

That quip may be largely true these days in San Francisco, but it was not always so. Flickr user KID DEUCE has just posted an amazing set of photos of classic gang tags from East LA in the 1970’s. The calligraphy in some of these is stunning. You can see the origins of Chaz’s Cholo style here, and at the same time, you can see where SF gang graf got some of its basic ideas, even though it has lost most of the style. Check it out.

Update: Two new links on this subject. There’s Rekoe’s photoset of Chicano tags, shot by Gusmano Cesaretti, and also a great set of murals on

(via Wooster Collective.)

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