Blood, sweat, and spray

What’s not to like? Massive burners, dripping whole trains, end-to-end street murals? Mathieu Kendrick looks at everything that makes Graffiti Argentina special

A FEW years back, I received a letter from a friend of a friend of a friend. The stranger was from Argentina and wrote in beautiful, broken English. His name was Maximiliano Ruiz.

He started by praising La France d’en bas, a book I had written about graffiti, and I felt flattered. Then he told me that he was working on a similar project on Argentine graffiti and wanted to ask me a few questions on “how to write a graffiti book’… and I felt sorry for him.

Trust me. Writing a book on graffiti is hard. Finding an editor willing to bet on your project, graphic designers willing to help you out free for months, and a girlfriend patient enough to let you endlessly roam the most desolate part of the city with her camera on the hunt for the perfect tags, burners and murals while you’re not earning any money … well that’s the easy part.

What’s difficult is getting all the Writers to collaborate: having the vandals go to that secret place where they’ve stashed their train flicks; talking the old-schoolers into sharing their archives with you, while they’re thinking out loud “Who the fuck is this guy? I should be the one doing this book!”; getting them to tell you about “that one time when we were down on the tracks with so and so and the cops started chasing us…”; convincing everybody that “No, man, I ain’t gonna make thousands of dineros off your back …”

All of this is what makes writing a book on graffiti so complicated. I mean, just getting them to give you a phone number or email address is hard enough, considering the level of paranoia that runs through our culture …

Of course, being a Writer yourself can make things easier. You know the talk and walk the walk. It is a small community, so there’s a chance that other Writers will know your work and agree to talk to you. If anything, it will convince them that you’re not an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the graffiti scene pretending to be working on a book…

So when Maximiliano told me he had never held a spray can, I thought “Man, don’t do it. Forget this graffiti book and go back to doing something useful with your life.” But I didn’t say so. I answered all his questions and gave him the best advice I could, not that he really needs it. And then I waited. And waited a bit longer.

Two years later, Graffiti Argentina hit the shelves – and I am literally blown away by the amount of sweat and talent he put in it.

What’s not to like? Massive burners, dripping whole trains, end-to-end street murals, political paintings, filetes … everything that makes South American graffiti so special is captured in this book.

So if I were you, I’d take your shoes off, sit back, relax and read. You’ll soon end up putting Graffiti Argentina where truly cool graffiti books belong: right next to your toilet bowl.

Mathieu Kendrick is the author of La France d’en bas. Le grafffiti dans le sud

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