Sense títol. Graffiti. Sèrie IX: "Images Primitives", c. 1930. Print run c. 1950

Untitled. Graffiti. IX Series: "Primitive Images", c. 1930. Print run c. 1950
Photograph, 50 x 40.5 cm

We must accept the evidence: the deaf strength of the wall brings a completely different style out of the childlike soul than does papers, a style harsher. Harder, more expressive, stripped of the picturesque. We are far from the sweetness of children’s drawings with their humor and fantasy. The nature of the materials and of tools can transform art and transfigure thinking itself. From paper to the wall, the childlike expression takes on a sort of gravity, a sort of density. it’s because paper submits and the wall commands. It doesn’t only change the features of an expression, but also the nature and even the aptitudes of the spirit. An engraving tool — on this occasion a nail, a jagged penknife — engages in battles that pencils and brushes cannot wage; theirs is riot art in-depth action like the chisel’s. An engraved stroke is infinitely stronger than the visual line it forms. The gesture is slowed down. Concentrating all its attention and the muscular effort it demands, it liberates a vital force emanating from the very life source of the child. Where does the strength and the fascination of the wall come from? It will play an active, creative role with all who incise on its copperplate engraving-like material. Their eyes popping our of their heads with justifiable curiosity, in hallucinating gazes, will nor be only the eyes of childhood. They will be the eyes of the wall as well, the gaze of the wall, just as all these faces will be the face of the wall, and all the hearts, the hearts of the wall. Here the medium shapes the art and is equally predetermined. The wall gives graffiti this unity of style, this air of familiarity, as if they were all drawn by the same hand, and this worn out, weathered, corroded look, as if they had emerged from another era.
I have photographed graffiti since 1930, and my first text, entitled “Du mur des cavernes au mur d’usine” — the title was suggested by Paul …luard — appeared in 1934 in one of the first issues of Minotaure. But it wasn’t until about 1950 that 1 had the idea of carrying little cards with me, on which I sketched the design of the graffiti and noted their addresses so that I could photograph them when the light was at its best, and also go back to them many years 1ater and follow their evolution. That was how I was sometimes able to capture the presence of time by photographing the same graffiti after a period of several years. For many graffiti give birth to collective works: to the original drawing other hands add other features, widening the wrinkles, hollowing out the eye sockets, as when in ten years, a young face became the pathetic countenance of an old man. In the same way, the face of a witch with donkey’s ears was transformed over seven years into that of a powdered clown.

Brassaï, ca. 1960

Technical details

Original title:
Sense títol. Graffiti. Sèrie IX: "Images Primitives"
Registration number:
Date created:
c. 1930. Print run c. 1950
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Gelatin silver print
50 x 40.5 cm (height x width)
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© Estate Brassaï
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