“Subscription to Mischief: Graffiti Zines of the 1990s” Opens May 6, 2023
A first-of-its-kind exhibition captures the innovation and community of graffiti, as seen in the pages of indie publications.
Experience Subscription to Mischief
Our next exhibition celebrates a combination seldom seen on museum walls. 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.
“The Skills archive captures a pivotal moment in graffiti history, documenting a time when practitioners transitioned into publishers, which helped the artform take root around the world.” — Greg Lamarche
- Featuring work by
- Amaze / Josh Lazcano
- Espo / Steve Powers
- Jocelyn Superstar
- Mike Giant
- Power / Tim Treacy
- Raven / Allen Benedikt
- Reas / Todd James
- Sacha Jenkins
- Shepard Fairey
- Some / Nate Smith
Twist / Barry McGee
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.
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.
- Featuring zines such as
- 12oz Prophet
- Can Control
- Graphic Scenes and X-plicit Language
- Hole in the Ozone
- Magic Moments
- Tribe Hip-hop Magazine
- Underground Productions
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.
“This exhibition is an unprecedented glimpse into the graffiti scene, narrated by magazines, photos, and handwritten letters from many of my favorite artists.” — Kel Troughton
For those who are not able to visit the gallery in San Francisco, Subscription to Mischief will join our first two shows as a rich online exhibition. The website will be available to all for a limited time and permanently accessible to Archive members. Stay tuned for updates about the launch of the online exhibition.
“Beyond showcasing their innovative work, this show is an exciting opportunity to welcome the graffiti community into our wider circle of calligraphers, lettering artists, and type designers. These makers all have so much in common, but don’t always get to share the same space.” — Kate Long Stellar
Lectures, gallery tours, and other special events — both in-person and online — will accompany the exhibition throughout its run. Join our mailing list for more information, including upcoming events.