Spray Surveillance
"Writing for your viewing pleasure"
by Gabriel Alvarez

LA's story, in terms of aerosol, has been buffed over in the recent years by sensationalistic mainstream media accounts of violent "tagbangers" running wild on the streets, burning you with heat and not with skills. A discredit to the talented writers with vision found in the City of Angeles, this image is a difficult one to erase, especially considering that graffiti art is already highly misunderstood by the public at large.

GRAFFITI VERITE', a 45 minute, shot on video production by director Bob Bryan, is an ambitious glimpse into Los Angeles' long standing tradition of writing. Rather than get dragged into a whirlpool of flashy hype, this solidly crafted effort bypasses glitz and instead (thankfully) concentrates on the words and images of the over two dozen street artists profiled. Its obvious that Bryan sees his subjects as creative people and not hooligans. The result is an effective presentation that should be required reading for all citizens of big cities that don't understand the significance and impact of graffiti.

Tightly edited, Verite's real strength is the philosophies of the writers that span different generations. These are intelligent minds who have more on their minds than just fame. Also of great interest are the tales spun about the famous writers bench on Olympic and Fairfax, the key stylistic differences between LA's east and west sides and Chicano great Chaz who documents the traditional practice of pachuco writing that dates back to the 1940's. For the most part, you realize that these events, which detail important developments in urban life, are mostly hidden from common historical accounts. It seems that the opportunity to learn from the wondrous writings on the wall is something the powers that be would soon have you not do.

While heads submerged in the spray can way of life will undoubtedly be up on this tape, here's the chance for the uninitiated out there to find out more about the colorful ghetto expressions lighting up the concrete jungles worldwide. And after you do, be sure to pick up copies of the must see documentaries Style Wars by Henry Chalfant and Tony Silver and Wild Style by Charlie Aheam.