Williamsburg has long been a focal point for established and emerging graffiti artists competing for niche spaces in which to exhibit their artwork. At present, local residents appreciate a wide selection of street art that peers out from walls, billboards and abandoned commercial and industrial lots.
Once deemed as a subversive act by many detractors, graffiti has evolved into a popular art form that’s gained wide recognition in international galleries and influenced marketing campaigns, graphic designers, and the fashion industry. And while London has replaced New York at the forefront of street art, Williamsburg has remained a fertile ground for experimental graffiti.
Accessible rents, a thriving arts community, and the availability of public spaces have attracted a diverse cluster of talented graffiti artists that continue to challenge our perspective through different mediums. In recent years, graffiti in Williamsburg has ranged from highly stylized texts and tags that are commonly associated with American graffiti, to more European-style street art, including poster-work, stencils and stickers.
An improvised tour of the area can offer you a substantial survey of classic and contemporary styles of artwork. On a recent walk through Williamsburg, we found four different types of graffiti:
Throw-ups and Pieces
Considered to be the earliest forms of graffiti, these elaborate representations of the artist’s name vary in size, thickness and outline. The use of multiple colors, and the speed and precision that is required to write them, have elevated these trademark signatures to a universal form of self-expression.
Painted by individual artists or collectives, murals can sometimes commemorate emblematic musicians, politicians and activists. With the influence of graffiti in advertising, some graffiti artists have also been contracted to paint murals for local businesses and corporations.
Working from a print of one or more colors that are later sprayed-over, stencils allow graffiti artists to focus on cultural icons that can be reproduced with precision.
Graffiti artists wheatpaste their poster-work on billboards and walls, sometimes actively incorporating their surroundings into the piece.