Spray Paint Can Collection
The cans in this display are many of the same cans that early graffiti writers used in the 1960s to 1980s. Spray paint is a technology that became an art medium, just like motion pictures and still photography before it and everything digital after. The first spray paint was developed in 1949, but the 1960s saw the first mass-market distribution of it in an easy-to-use, reliable form. It was almost immediately used for graffiti.
Spray paint was never intended to be an art medium, and companies would typically produce a dozen or two colors at a time. For graffiti writers, the special colors in production for only a year or two were highly sought after and hoarded. Today, such colors — and other old cans like these — are collector’s items.
European spray paint companies in the 1990s were the first to develop their products with artists in mind, and today, an artist can order hundreds of colors online.
BEYOND THE STREETS New York, 2019. Photo by Dan Bradica.