New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, February 04, 2008

Unkindest Etch of All

This morning I have been reading websites like bombingscience and wetcanvas. My head is swimming with grafiiti terminology and threads on the various ways and means of working with Armor Etch, Etchall, bath etc. Creams are too thick and dips too thin. Mixing with shoe polish or paint. How to apply it. Getting the stuff in markers. And the sites are laden heavily with expletives directed at anyone not in the know and asking "stupid" questions.
Technology and ingenuity cut two ways and in the case of graffiti, purveyors have upped the ante with acid. If you have seen work like that on the subway car window in the photo, this is not the result of scratchiti (scribing), giraffiti or conventional graffiti, but the handiwork of individuals who use acid etching solutions to permanently write on glass. The problem has become epidemic in subways, on retail store windows and anywhere there is a public pane of glass. There are now laws regarding the purchase of acid etching materials as well as buying spray paint. Of course there is controversy regarding legislation and the sale of art materials.
I wrote about the graffiti phenomenon in March, 2007 in an article on the retail shop, Scrapyard - click here.
I think most people find the whole acid etch graffiti thing quite disturbing, once they realize that the damage is permanent and the entire glass window must be replaced at great cost. Many retailers afflicted with the condition tend to just leave it in place - saving money and not running the risk at having vandals do a repeat performance. For new subway cars, the transit system has availed itself of a 3M product - Scotchgard Anti-Graffiti Window Film - a Mylar protective film not affected by etching acids.
Oh, I didn't tell the whole truth. Conventional wisdom and most articles you will find about acid etch will state that the damage is permanent. Not quite true. It can be removed in a laborious process of grinding and polishing - I once spoke with a worker removing etchings from a retail store on Broadway. There is a company Unscratch the Surface in California that does this - you can watch a video of the process on their site. A new industry is born to deal with the unkindest etch of all ...

Photo Note: This photo was taken on the F Train in Brooklyn. For a second shot with the city skyline, click here.

11 comments:

Petrea said...

Your photos are always great, and you go the extra mile with your stories of each one. Not so much stories, but well-researched articles. They make your blog stand out in the Daily City Photo blog line-up. As if your photos didn't already.

Jeremy said...

YES I agree with Petrea .. Brian you are the Daily Photo Master .. and here in NZ the issue of Tagging is currently under debate again ... ways to solve the "problem" are few ... however if you look at Melbourne, Australia there are many examples of City Council sanction and maintained graffiti artworks in the lanes and alleyways .. and they do add a colourful artistic dimension to the city. The other end of the story is the sadness I felt when first going to Amsterdam in 1980 ans seeing the city covered in scrawl. ...challenging?. rgds jeremy

Lucy said...

Terrific photo, and writing, and a story that explains a lot. I can't imagine the ego that actually etches one's name into a public building...

David said...

A few years ago on my first of many trips to Paris, I vividly remember my train ride into the city from the airport . . . and being surprised by the extent of the suburban graffiti on the railway landscape. For me this was certainly an unexpected first impression of Paris . . . but at the same time I felt strangely familiar with this scene . . . and see now that this was one of many factors that made Paris feel as much home to me as NYC. In a way it's very sad to see public spaces defaced . . . but on the other hand it's become part of the urban mosaic that excites the artistic eye . . . It's also somewhat related that for me street art on some NYC walls is as interesting and exciting as anything that you'd see at MoMA . . .

Petrea said...

The current Smithsonian Magazine mentions an exhibit of graffiti art at the National Portrait Gallery. Not only is the genre here to stay but the best of it, at least, is practically mainstream.

But you've got to do more than just etch your name to get that far. You've got to be good.

http://tinyurl.com/37ytnc

kunal bhatia said...

we don't have too much graffiti here in mumbai, rather i think in india in general.. we just have loads and loads of illegal pamphlets and advertisements that are pasted on to walls...

i liked the picture for the way multiple frames appear, from the window frame to the layers of steel structure. and of course, your description is quite interesting too!

Anonymous said...

whatever happened to a can of rustoleum and a pilot marker they are great at writing on anything and not coming off and yes there are artist who oppose scratch and etch as its mass destruction and not art or caligraphy

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd let you know, we are one of a few companies who can actually remove 100% of glass graffiti. We recently completed a job which left no distortion in any of the acid etched glass. Yet, the damage was completely removed. We covered about 450 sq ft of damage. Unfortunately most people and business owners don’t know that this service actually exists and about how much money can be saved. This is a rare opportunity for a business to save money and do what is environmentally friendly by having their glass resurfaced. So if you become aware of any glass graffiti damage, please feel free to direct them to our website or have them contact me. Thanks.

Bill Lazaris
www.restorationtechnologyinc.com

Glass Scratch Removal said...

Acid Etch Graffiti is a annoyance to building and storefront owners everywhere. Fortunately there are a lot of companies out there that can fix this sort of thing.Glass Graffiti Removal is a great service offered by lots of companies, just make sure before you let anyone touch your glass that they guarantee perfection on the repairs. As there may be many that claim, but few who can provide such services.

Scratched Glass Repair Los Angeles said...

It seems to me that glass graffiti "artists" are getting better at their trade. We did some repairs in Burbank, CA where every single window was scratched or etched with a diamond! Diamond scratches have a uniform depth and jagged edge throughout. Very deep, compared to acid graffiti. Most glass graffiti removal technicians stop once the "whiteness" is gone. But we have discovered that sometimes the damage goes as deep as some scratched glass graffiti! The glass almost appears to be melted underneath the surface.
There are definitely lots of companies out there that claim to be able to remove the damage but it's always a good idea to have them do a small demo first. And don't let "them" pick the demo. Make sure you do, and pick a really deep one! Jagged edges, bits of glass missing and 12 sq ft or more! That will really test their mettle! [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mettle]
And one more thing to check their abilities! Preferably with the afternoon sun, filtered sunlight, or florescent light overhead, get down lower than the repaired area and look up into the repaired area. 9 times out of ten, you will see swirls all over the place! Very few people scrutinze the glass graffiti repairs or scratched glass repairs like this and are one day unpleasantly surprised. Don't get taken advantage of. "An educated consumer is the(our) best customer." Sy Syms
We wholeheartedly believe that. With the foregoing in mind, there definitely are some really good glass restoration companies out there, but...they are few and far between. It's an art and most people never really develop the skill needed to get a flawless glass scratch repair. Do your homework, get a guarantee in writing that there won't be any swirls, haze or distortion. "Google" - Unscratch if you need any more help or have any more scratched glass repair questions.

Why Removing Glass Graffiti Is Critical said...

If it's not a crime, it's not graffiti. By definition, graffiti involves the defacing of property not intended for that purpose.

There is evidence that no sooner have some walls been made accessible to graffiti "artists" on purpose, than the immediate surroundings not meant for graffiti get attacked.

It's part of the culture of vandalism to leave a mark of conquest that speaks of defiance against the authority of the property owner. Therein lies the "fun" of doing graffiti.

I know of a restaurant in San Francisco that decided to use graffiti as a way to brand itself to look chic. No sooner did they intentionally paint graffiti on their walls, than their neighbors' walls and storefront windows were damaged by graffiti criminals. Unintended consequences are still blatant consequences.

Glass graffiti removal is a terrific way to eliminate the risk of converting your commercial street into yet another visual public urinal.