Wednesday, March 4, 2009
MIAMI GRAFFITI vs MIAMI NEW TIMES
By Gus Garcia-Roberts in Street Works.
Local graffiti artists have been getting a lot of attention lately. In February, they pierced the mainstream media by targeting some uber-audacious locations, eventually culminating in a fatal accident. And in April, a photography book, Miami Graffiti, pays tribute to some of the street's most skilled artists.
Husband and wife photographers James and Karla Murray are professional graffiti aficionados, having already written a couple of volumes about elaborate street art in their native New York. They were turned onto the medium when a graffiti artist there recruited them to put together a portfolio of his work. "It became an obsession for us once we started finding these beautiful murals," Karla says. "It was clear somebody spent long, long amounts of time on these paintings. And our reaction was, 'How could all this -- these intricate designs with colors that grab you -- be done with spray paint?' Then we started meeting the artists and getting into the graffiti culture."
When corporate assignments took them to Miami, they used their first free moments to scour the city in a rented car, looking to experience a new city's spray-paint style. They found a scene that was relatively new but just as vibrant as New York's -- and reflected Miami's gaudy general motif.
"The graffiti artists in Miami use these tropical colors," Karla explains. "In New York, they tend to paint with darker colors -- grays, dark greens -- reflecting the urban environment. In Miami, you'll see candy colors: bright pinks, bright green. When we started meeting Miami artists, we asked them: 'Do you guys purposely use these bright colors?' And they really didn't even realize they were doing it. One of them was like, 'That's partly just what we see in Miami.' Everything's brightly colored there, even the cars. In NY, you'll never see a neon bright green car. You'll see them all over the place in Miami."
Then there's that other difference between the two scenes: in New York, pained knuckles and frozen paint cans force graf artists to take winters off. No such hiatus exists in Miami, which makes the Murrays' task of stalking new pieces more challenging. "New York's winter is good for us, because it gives us a chance to catch up," Karla says. "But that's the exciting nature of photographing graffiti -- you can't be lazy about it. When you see a beautiful piece, you can't wait until tomorrow to shoot it. The city, or other artists, might paint over it. The hunt sometimes has us busting into abandoned buildings to shoot the piece on the building across from it, climbing trees to get a good shot -- we've had to do some crazy things."