Jazman’s zine sale Pigment Art Supply 304 15th St. Oakland Jan. 20, 2024
I wasn’t aware of how big the graffiti scene is in the Bay Area until I arrived at Pigment Art Supply downtown and saw the crowd of graffiti enthusiasts milling about outside and spilling from the store.
The small shop, which offers essential tools for graffiti artists — spray paints in an array of bright colors hug the walls, along with skinny and fat cap attachments that determine the width of outlines — hosted a thriving scene for local graffiti artist Jazman, whose work can be spotted all over Oakland, San Francisco, and beyond.
“The turnout is pretty amazing,” the cashier told me. “We’ve already sold half a dozen of his zines in the first half hour.”
And everyone seemed welcome. In the spirit of graffiti and its fans, who nurture the scene and give its artists due respect, guests were welcome to “tag” a guestbook with their art. I watched one young man draw his design in the guest book using a thick black marker with ease and elegance, art on the fly that felt as immediate and vibrant as what’s done on the streets.
People who aren’t involved in the scene might not consider graffiti to be an art form, but think of it as a descendant of cave art, with everyone from Basquiat to Banksy as practitioners. It can be seen as an unwanted blight by city dwellers, or it can be refracted and seen as a form of art you can appreciate walking down the street while running errands — a form of creative urban commentary that’s more inclusive than exclusive, an anywhere-and-everywhere mobile gallery. Graffiti artists (often referred to as “writers” in the scene) can build up their artistic resume on the fly, and spotting works in the wild can be a bit like bird-watching.
The bustling scene at Pigment speaks to graffiti’s accessibility and DIY factor, something that engages the fans as much as the artists. It had the energy of an excited community coming together to celebrate a hometown hero. The demographic who showed up to Pigment covered an array of ages and colors, though admittedly many young and mostly male. The vibe felt engaged, lively, and collegial. The clerk filled in an older woman who seemed to be a neophyte to the scene; she ended up purchasing Jazman’s zine. The shelf full of zines quickly emptied minutes after I arrived.
In local circles, the brisk sales spoke to Jazman’s notoriety. He seems to be known for his experimental style, “bombing” public spots with his distinctive tags, or names. His zine was filled with color and creativity, a beacon of expression thrown up on the sides of buildings and bridges.
There are times when I walk downtown without even noticing the art on the walls, eyes down, focused on my next destination. Graffiti makes you appreciate the beauty hidden in plain sight. Sometimes it’s just a name written in bubble letters, sometimes it’s a riot of color or a mural commissioned by a local business or community center, meant to claim art and creativity as for the people and by the people. It’s a stake for acknowledgement, as simple as saying, I’m here.