Urban art has hidden beauty

March 6, 2009 7:28:57 PM PST
A new book "Bay Area Graffiti" by Steve Rotman, documents the hidden and not so hidden works that are as controversial as they are captivating.

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It is about technique, detail, originality, vibrant colors. Creative designs from an aerosol spray can. Graffiti began as ghetto art for kids who had nothing else. At first, an illegal form of expression. But this is legal, commissioned by businesses to enhance properties. From a seaside skate shop in Santa Cruz to inside a self-storage unit in Oakland, or this wall at Amoeba Records in the Haight.

"San Francisco is definitely a hub for the medium itself," says Ronnie.

Ronnie is a painter, showing in galleries. He is also a graffiti artist using a different name, so ABC7 didn't show his pieces.

"Most kids start off my writing on things and from there you take those letters and then you start to create larger versions. Then you start to incorporate more color, different backgrounds, different techniques," says Ronnie.

Writers do symbols or letters that represent their names.

"Some people they just want to get their names up as many times and places as possible and they're kind of referred to as 'bombers.' They're more, you know, ruthless," says Chris Brennan, an artist and co-author.

But eventually they must become more creative, usually becoming part of crews or teams. Author Steve Rotman shot more than 30,000 photos preparing the book.

"What I discovered in my four years of photographing graffiti is its wide spectrum of form of expression. From a simple tag all the way to a beautiful full production on a wall," says Rotman.

Then there are those taggers who attack with a rebel spray can.

"Usually the ones who will deface something such as this are the people who lack the knowledge and lack the respect," says Ronnie.

Graffiti artists hope works like this will change their image. A once dirty alley now becomes like a gallery with the wall becoming a canvas. It is inspiring one South of Market businessman to open a graffiti art gallery soon.

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