Text by Alberto F.
We know it as ghetto style, ignorant style, or anti-style; all those types of graffiti trends that voluntarily try to produce a neglected or even grotesque result. Whether it be in the composition of the letters (deformations that aren’t very harmonic, and randomly added, or cartoonish elements), or in the technique utilized (disregard for uniformity in outlines and fill ins, use of high pressure caps that produce blurry lines, or very poor quality industrial paint), the goal is to try to do what someone would do if they had absolutely no type of knowledge on technique or styles which could be considered “good taste”.
As you might imagine, this type of graffiti requires a type of “unlearning”, that, although is complex and interesting on an intellectual level, many writers don’t understand, especially those who follow mainstream, effect-based graffiti. And despite the long history of this trend, ignorant style continues to stir up controversy. It’s for that reason that we’re going to try to explain the origin of this current while at the same time, try to explain the value of this phenomenon. If we can’t put an end to the controversy, we’ll at least promote respect for it.
1. Homage to primitive graffiti.
Many followers of what we call “ignorant style” are fanatics of the original graffiti that was done on New York metros before the “rule” defining styles in contemporary graffiti were constructed. Cliff, Stayghigh 149, Tracy168, P-nut… and above all, Blade (writers who were very young during the time) are referential to those who attempt to imitate the rawness and nature of “ghetto style”.
2. Stylistic restlessness
The evolution of graffiti, both stylistically and technically, has led to highly sophisticated styles, impeccable execution, and effects that are often hard to believe have been done just with spray paint and the human hand. But this type of graffiti can’t satisfy all audiences’ appetites, seeing as in other fields of human expression (not just talking about art), pleasure doesn’t just come from the most complicated techniques that are in some ways, inhuman.
Ignorant style offers an approach to a more thoughtless and childish graffiti, while at the same time raising questions about the legitimacy of what we consider technique or style. It’s often disparagingly referred to as “hipster graffiti”, maybe because it’s followers fit the description of a type of person that’s interested in the newest fads and trends that are generally less accepted. So is it a trend then? Maybe so; if it weren’t for the two decades of history under its belt, and for the fact that it’s even become the native style in some places, as is the case in Finland.
The concept of parody plays a fundamental role in ignorant style since the act of forcing ones skills in order to deliver a naive result, is just as fun for the creator of the piece as it is for the spectators who understand the irony of the act.
Some writers understand graffiti as an act of spontaneous creation, and this also must show through in its aesthetic expression. The premise is to let the forms flow without hesitation. It’s a way of painting purely spontaneous, intuitive graffiti with maximum expression in what we call “rawness”. Consequently, this disinterest for premeditating letters often results in graffiti that fits into the classification of ignorant style.
It’s said that taste comes in all different forms, and ignorant style, without a doubt, contributes variety to the graffiti discipline and not just on an aesthetic level as we’ve seen. The multitude of options for giving letters style is something positive that gives richness to the culture of getting-up and shouldn’t be underrated although it doesn’t match ones’ personal taste. Writers are often nonconformists, rebels, and open minded, which means that anyone who considers themself a writer should be able to appreciate ignorant style. But, the most important thing to remember is that though this trend continues to be rejected and discredited by popular graffiti followers, this marginalization is precisely what makes it even more exclusive. It just goes to show, ignorant style is not for ignorant people.