Los Angeles Tag Bangers Had Their Hands in Two Worlds

Los Angeles Tag Bangers had their hands in two worlds. One was in the graffitti aspect of it and the other was teetering on the side of death. Here is a special report from 1990.

How Tagging in Los Angeles Gave Birth to an Art Form

If you grew up in Los Angeles in the 1990s, chances are you remember seeing tagging everywhere. Shoot, even I started a tagging crew in Junior High. I remember going to battle with some Philipino crew who ended up mobbing our entire school. We got our asses handed to us. I think that was the last of my tagging run.

But it wasn’t just me, it was everywhere. They were on buildings, buses, and even on people’s clothes. For many Angelenos, tagging was just another part of life in the city. But what most people don’t know is that those tags were the beginnings of a art form that would go on to be exhibited in some of the most prestigious museums in the world. This is the story of how LA taggers created graffiti art.

In the early 1970s, a group of young Mexican Americans in Los Angeles began using spray paint to write their names on walls and buildings around the city. They called themselves “taggers” and their tags were simple signatures consisting of their nicknames or street names. At first, tagging was just something to do for fun. But as more and more people started doing it, tagging became a way to gain recognition and status within the community.

Soon, taggers began adding embellishments to their tags, such as arrows and other shapes. They also started using multiple colors and experimenting with different lettering styles. As their skills improved, taggers began to develop their own unique styles. Some became known for their intricate designs, while others were known for their ability to cover entire walls with their tags.

By the 1980s, tagging had evolved into a full-blown art form. Tagger crews began popping up all over Los Angeles, and competitions between crews became common. The most talented taggers started getting commissions from businesses and private individuals to paint murals and other artwork. And in 1986, the first “graffiti summit” was held in Los Angeles, bringing together taggers from all over the city to share their work with each other.

What started out as a simple act of vandalism has become one of the most popular forms of street art in the world. Thanks to the creativity and talent of LA taggers, graffiti art has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious museums and galleries around the globe. So next time you see a graffiti mural, take a moment to appreciate the skill that went into creating it—you might just be looking at a piece of history.

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