The history and evolution of arrows in graffiti art
One of the most important design elements in graffiti art is the arrow. Arrows express movement and energy. In her groundbreaking book Tag Town, Martha Cooper photographed vintage graffiti tags in her Washington Heights neighborhood, still visible from the early 1970s to the 1980s (the tags are those hard-to-read scribbles you see on mailboxes and other surfaces in most cities). Many of these labels contained arrows as well as stars, hearts, numbers and crowns. From studying the images of these early tags, we were able to determine that the complex arrow variations we see in today’s sophisticated Wildstyle graffiti letterforms originated from simple graffiti tags.
An arrow is an internationally understood symbol used on signs to simply indicate direction, such as “Enter” or “Exit”. In graffiti art, however, the arrow is a powerful visual tool that is often combined with letters to give them movement and dynamism. An arrow points the viewer’s eyes in a certain direction. An arrow can emerge from either side of a letter, weave in and out, back and forth and around in circles, across a two-dimensional surface, creating depth and rhythm. Graffiti artist Ezo says that every graffiti writer has their own arrow, and it’s true: the variations and design possibilities of an arrow are endless. An arrow can be drawn in all shapes and sizes; thick and lumpy or long and thin, pointed or square, single or multiple ends. The arrow can organically follow the flow and direction of the letter, like a vine. Or it can explode out of the country from which it emerges like a rocket, as in the work of “The Rammelzee”, known as Gothic Futurism.
So, early graffiti writers incorporated simple arrows and other basic design elements into their tags to make them stand out and attract attention. From this simple beginning, the arrow has evolved into a multifaceted, complex and self-contained art object. A New York graffiti artist and writer, Mare 139, actually creates beautiful, three-dimensional sheet metal sculptures that contain only arrows, with light and space as parts of his design. We believe that arrows are a fascinating and diverse element of graffiti lettering, providing artists and students with constant opportunities for innovation and style. We absolutely love arrows.
#history #evolution #arrows #graffiti #art