Books in the MCL: Gusmano Cesaretti. STREET WRITERS. A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti.

  • by Jacob Paulsen

STREET WRITERS. A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti. Gusmano Cesaretti. 1975.

The roots of the global graffiti movement lie in New York in the late 1960s. Over the years, the simple lettering first developed into simple, quick pieces and, by the early 1980s at the latest, into elaborate, mostly colorful masterpieces on the trains of the New York Subway. But early on, similar forms of namewriting also appeared in other regions of America.

Along with Philadelphia, for example, Los Angeles also looks back on an independent culture of writing names in public spaces. Thus, as early as 1975, photographer Gusmano Cesaretti published STREET WRITERS – A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti, a documentary-style booklet that paid attention to the regional phenomenon in L.A., capturing the cryptic letters and numbers in numerous black-and-white photographs.

The images were taken on a tour of Los Angeles, which Cesaretti undertook with Charles “Chaz” Bojórquez. “Chaz” was already active in the streets of the city since 1969 as a plaquito / writer and gradually enlightened the photographer about the meaning, origins and peculiarities of the so-called Cholo style. The style borrows calligraphic elements from Gothic writing and the mostly monochrome lettering are individual names or gang names, often associated with the street number, similar to New York Writing. The territorial aspect is prominent in Chicano graffiti and the names were originally applied with a brush, but then increasingly with spray can and marker.

In addition to introductory texts, the photo book includes various regional chapters, rough details about the location of the photographs, the creators, and the significance of their signatures. The form of namewriting, which originated independently of New York Graffiti, is reminiscent of the Pixação from São Paulo and still characterizes the cityscape and the graffiti style of the city after more than 40 years.

text: Sascha Blasche  photos: Sebastian Kläbsch

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