Graffiti Art

Art History Lesson: Origins of Graffiti Art

When and where did graffiti come from?

“‘Cueva de las manos” (Cave of Hands), Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

“‘Cueva de las manos” (Cave of Hands), Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

The origin of graffiti art can be traced back to ancient times, when humans were writing on walls in caves. Even the definition of the word ‘graffiti’ denotes the origin of this prehistoric art form. The word ‘graffiti,’ plural for graffito, means scratch in Italian. These “scratches” on caves and the walls of rock shelters, became known as parietal art (or cave art) with origins in Upper Paleolithic Europe more than 20,000 years ago! The first known cave art dates back 40,000 years ago, at the El Castillo Cave in Spain. “Cueva de las manos,” or Cave of Hands in English, is one of the most famous ……..Although modern day graffiti art typically no longer involves scratching, this art form has been around since the beginning of time. Modern graffiti using spray paint, has a more romantic (or some may say, stalkerish) origin.

Modern Graffiti Art

“Graffiti started out as a love story”

Modern day graffiti dates back to the early 1960s thanks to a lovestruck teenager from Philly named Cornbread. Darryl McCray, who earned the name “Cornbread” while doing a stint in juvenile detention, started tagging “Cornbread Loves Cynthia” all throughout North Philadelphia to win the attention of his love interest, Cynthia Custuss.

In an interview with Philadelphia Weekly from 2001, Cornbread, then 48 years old, tells the story of his romantic conquest and it’s so cute, minus the juvenile detention part. :/ This was a carefully planned endeavor, not a fly by night random act of vandalism by a horny adolescent. Cornbread searched and found Cynthia’s class schedule and roster, and started writing “Cornbread loves Cynthia” on her desks. When “Cornbread loves Cynthia” started popping up on her street and bus route home, Cynthia was perplexed on the identity of this mystery love. Cornbread befriended Cynthia as Darryl and it wasn’t until Cynthia saw this now ubiquitous “Cornbread loves Cynthia” avowal on his own schoolbooks did she make the connection. “That’s when she fell in love with me,” says Cornbread. Unfortunately, Cynthia’s dad prevented any opportunity for a fairytale ending when he moved her to another school to get away from him.

Although his relationship with Cynthia ended, Cornbread, now 66 years old, moved on to bigger tagging conquests. His most notorious, including the Philadelphia Zoo, where he tagged “Cornbread Lives” after an erroneous article was published in ——deceased. At this time, Philadelphia rapidly became the uncontested graffiti capital of the world, as gangs were using graffiti to “mark their territories.” Although

From Gangs to Hip Hop: Philly to NYC

Subway Graffiti