FOS Crew, Detail, 2009
There is a general ego when it comes to graffiti, it's one of the only illegal things someone can do that isn’t meant to be discrete. I met a handful of graffiti artists when I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin after I graduated high school. Milwaukee was a graffiti artist’s dream, since most business moved south to Chicago and industry moved across the ocean Milwaukee was a skeleton of warehouses with endless blank walls. A few people took advantage of the size of the buildings to go big. While I started to travel to different cities I noticed this was an ongoing trend and saw more graffiti artists moving away from conventional aerosol cans and markers to industrial paints, rollers and sprayers to push the size and limits of graffiti.
Like any other artist, graffiti artists have to look at space and consider how they are going to use it. Another factor when working large in an outside area is time with the risk of getting caught choosing a space that is large but not well traveled has to be taken into consideration.
Saber, Los Angeles River Bank, 1997
Saber is a well-known Los Angeles based graffiti artist and well known for his eccentric typefaces he paints. He gained global fame when he painted the largest graffiti piece by a single person. He chose to paint on the sloping cement bank of the Los Angeles River over the course of 35 nights and took him 126 gallons of paint. The work is roughly the size of a professional football field. Working this big took a toll on his body, since he was working on a slanted surface Saber wore out the cartilage in his knee and had to have surgery. Originally he left it as bold letters, but a visiting artist from New York later noted that it looked sloppy with the absence of a border Saber went back out and added in the border. Saber’s river work gained so much attention he was asked to repaint a scaled version in a Los Angeles museum exhibit.
Another Los Angeles based graffiti crew MTA (Metro Transit Assassins) one-upped saber on the Los Angeles River banks with their crew name. The MTA tag covers several blocks and according to the LAPD costs over 3.7million dollars to remove. This work was completed in four nights since they simplified it to black and white and worked in a collaborative crew. However, it took them 300 gallons of white paint and 100 gallons of black paint to finish the piece. The piece is roughly three stories tall and three blocks long.
FOS Crew, Abandoned Air Field, 2009
Inspired by the MTA tag on the Los Angeles River the FOS crew in Oslo, Norway set out to create the second largest Graffiti work. The piece is roughly 60 ft tall and 820 ft long. FOS used only around 70 gallons for the black outline but added in the sentence “Can you see us from outerspace?”
These are some of the most notable works, and have inspired many more graffiti artist to work larger and explore different ways to paint their works. Since graffiti is illegal both works on the Los Angeles River have been buffed out. Removing such notable works has only inspired younger generations of graffiti artists to fill the shoes of those they admire and create bigger works all over the world.
- Josh Baumgardner