Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Golden Age of Gang Graffiti

One of L.A.'s oldest gangs, "Clanton 14" takes its name from the former Clanton Street, now renamed 14th Place. Several variations on the "C 14" theme are seen here. It should be noted that the number 14, as used here, has nothing to do with Northern California. Probably sometime in the mid 1970s inmates of the state prison system from Northern California adopted the number 14 to differentiate themselves from their bitter rivals from Southern California, who were generally associated with the number 13.

Although the old Clanton 14 neighborhood has been fractured by freeway construction and urban renewal the gang still survives and has an excellent website.

The Golden Age of Gang Graffiti is a brilliant flickr set by Kid Deuce with photos from old school gang graffiti in East Los Angeles during the early 1970's.
In his own words:
"When these photographs of Chicano "placas" (wall writing) were made in the early 1970s gangs and their graffiti were a mysterious presence that few understood -- if they were aware of them at all. In the thirty plus years since the popular media and entertainment industry have repeatedly spotlighted the subject to the point that the gangsta culture has become a pervasive part of our society.

The original gangster graffiti of this period was of a purer form than that seen today, with much emphasis on artistic flourishes. These pieces could last for years in the days before municipilaties instituted aggresive graffiti removal programs that quickly remove them from view -- often overnight.

This is, of course, still vandelism but from an earlier and more innocent time."

This is a field guide to the street gangs of Los Angeles. It was distributed to law enforcement officers about 25 years ago but most of the information is applicable to the photographs in this set, which date from the early 1970s.

"HXCXR" stands for "Harbor City Rifa". Rifa means, roughly, "rules". This meant is to indicate that Harbor City is superior to all other gangs in the area, a contention that is likely to be disputed by members of rival gangs.

"Deadeye" from Dog Town has created this placa with a deft hand. It should be noted that the swastika, as used here, is more of a decorative device than a political symbol. Most gang members of the time would have had only the vaguest notion of its association with the Nazis.

Click pics for highrez, image captions by Kid Deuce

The Golden Age of Gang Graffiti via wooster

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