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Corporate Graff

June 18, 2005

Founders and long standing members of TATS CRU got their start painting trains in the Bronx over twenty years ago. Today, TATS CRU has established itself as a legally legitimate company of professional muralists. They paint murals for small businesses and organizations throughout New York City. However, TATS CRU also accepts business from more shady corporate clients.
In 1996, TATS CRU was contracted to paint a series of advertisements for Coca-Cola. Click here to read about Coca-Cola’s international human rights abuses. Click here and here to check out some anti-Coke street art.

A recent Hummer advertisements painted by TATS CRU has aroused some interesting controversy on the street. Two identical Hummer ads were painted in Williamsburg (North 8th and Bedford) and the West Village (Avenue A and 2nd Street). Here is a picture of the Williamsburg ad, which has been tagged over with comments such as “No Blood For Oil,” “Cars kill,” and “Ride a bike.” The Hummer logo has also been crossed out. I also coulden’t help but notice the GoreB painting installed near the Hummer ad.
Check out Wooster’s picture of the West Village advertisement, which has also been defaced.
Considering the city’s unhealthy levels of smog, it’s not hard to understand why New Yorker’s would react negatively to these ads, which peddle an off road vehicle that gets an estimated 13 miles to the gallon. (it’s hard to get an accurate understanding of the Hummer’s gas mileage because its uncanny weight exempts it from mileage-reporting requirements) The Hummer is the epitome of America’s environmentally deadly SUV fetish.
The mural pictured below, painted by students at El Puente High School, reflects serious community concerns about smog and environmental justice issues.

Members of TATS CRU might want to take these concerns into consideration before accepting future commissions that impose negative images on communities that have sponsored their art and livelihoods for years.


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8 comments on “Corporate Graff”

I think it’s important for Street Art and Graff not to be held to the same rules. Tats Cru have been around forever as far as Graff Crews go and if they want to do Hummer Ads let them. Frankly, they were holding down the illegal and dangerous world a lot when a lot (not all of course) of Street Artists were still in Grade School.
To deface their ads may be construed as “reclaiming public space” from a Street Art perspective but if you were to look at it from a graffitti viewpoint its clearly a case of going over their work. Personally I think its a bit like a rollerblader telling the Dogtown Crew from the 70’s they’re sellouts…
Now obviously Im all for Street Art and especially people who choose to use Street Art as a platform for discourse but in this case I think it’s misplaced and more than a bit disrespectful to the Tats Cru…. more later if need be

its an advertisement, and its graffiti, its gunna get tagged, thats the nature of the street. happens to be that there were criticisms of the ad. thats how it goes.
the nature of this site is also similiar, a place of dialogue, somewhere to be heard and seen. Hopefully in a deeper context…
i dont like hummers or the militatry industrial complex that produces them. i do like the tats cru’s talent, two different things.

i wouldn’t judge how tats cru makes a living — everyone’s gotta work for someone.
regular (non-aerosol) ads for hummers get defaced in similar ways pretty regularly, this one has only made a stir in the street art scene because of tats cru’s involvement. when a billboard is defaced, you don’t take it as a dis on the workers who hung it up.
plus, this question of art vs. commerce is faced in varying degrees by anyone who tries to make a living from art. logan hicks did ads for nike, shepard fairey was criticized for selling shirts made in sweatshops, etc. on the other hand, banksy has turned down lucrative ad offers as have some others. everyone has to make those choices on their own.
that said, i gotta admit seeing the phrase “street art” used to promote hummers did make me cringe a little….

if they don’t want their “work” to get defaced, then they shouldn’t do pieces of things people are going to want to mess up. if they’d done a mural advertising cell phones or orange juice no one would have touched it. it’s not about tat’s cru, it’s about hummer.

One of the main points that is not being addressed enough is that this advertisement is in a neighborhood that has an incredibly high rate of pollution. Most kids have serious asthma by the time they reach junior high. These environmental hazards have spurred community individuals and groups including students to take action against corporate entities controlling power plants in close proximity to their neighborhood. Furthermore what exactly is the goal of putting a hummer ad in a working class community, which is subjected to envrionmental racism? Placing this hummer ad in the Williamsburg community, is a direct attack on all of the efforts of these activists to create a healthier place to live. The point is not whether TATS CRU are sell outs or not. WHO CARES! The point is that it saddens me when independent artists who grew up in NY ignore these issues, and display a blatent lack of social consciousness where business is concerned. This makes me wonder, WHAT’S NEXT–A GRAFFITI AD FOR ARMY RECRUITMENT RIGHT NEXT TO EL PUENTE ACADEMY FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE?
Canek wrote “Members of TATS CRU might want to take these concerns into consideration before accepting future commissions that impose negative images on communities that have sponsored their art and livelihoods for years. ”

Just to break it down– ksee mentioned the military industrial complex remember? A hummer ad is not just an ad for a regular old suv. It’s an endorsement for a vehicle which is designed for the armed forces, in a community of people of color who are strategically targeted by army recruiters. Next time I walk by the ad I don’t know if I will be able to suppress the urge to projectile vomit. I get the same feeling when I see ads on the street for video games about combat and war. Its designed to be a false sense of empowerment. Driving a hummer makes you feel strong and powerful — right? Be all that you can be, let’s go run down the enemy, I mean — some pedestrians.

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