Subscription to Mischief: Graffiti Zines of the 1990s
Featuring Greg Lamarche's archives and Letterform Archive's collection of graffiti magazines, Subscription to Mischief explores 1990s graffiti zines with a special focus on the making of Skills. It highlights original works by prominent and lesser-known writers of the '90s through the pieces, throwups, and handstyles featured in letters, flick trade photos, and magazine submissions. Taking a close look at practitioners as documentarians, and how magazines served as launch pads for creative careers, Subscription to Mischief is a time capsule of graffiti letterforms and a tribute to the community formed through snail mail.
During the 1990s, as graffiti became increasingly criminalized, writers found another way to show their work: by using photocopiers and personal computers to print small-run zines that reached audiences far beyond their own cities. Independent graffiti publications became highly coveted, gave writers a place to document their culture and moment. 12oz Prophet, Can Control, Graphic Scenes & X-plicit Language, and IGTimes are among the groundbreaking publications featured in the exhibition.
At a time when mainstream society was dismissive, at best, and punishing, at worst, graffiti magazines created a community for writers and an avenue for field reports, exposing writers to the regional styles of far away places. Letterform Archive’s goal in collecting graffiti magazines is the same as our goal in collecting other pioneering and independently printed works — like the counterculture magazines Oracle and Oz, or DIY punk flyers: to preserve and make them accessible to researchers, designers, and lovers of letterforms. Like the 17th-century European writing masters, mid-20th-century sign painters, and today’s experimental calligraphers whose work also reside in the Archive’s collection, graffiti writers are dedicated to mastering the structure, developing the style, and exploring the limits of legibility in handmade letterforms.
The show was co-curated by Kate Long Stellar, Letterform Archive’s librarian, alongside guest curators and graffiti writers Lamarche (Sp.One), David Villorente (Chino BYI), and Kel Troughton.
For those who are not able to visit the gallery in San Francisco, Subscription to Mischief will join their first two shows as a rich online exhibition. The website will be available to all for a limited time and permanently accessible to Letterform Archive members.