As graffiti has evolved over the 21st century, one area that has grown considerably is 3D Graffiti. At first, converting flat 2D painted letters to a tangible three dimensional format seemed to be one of the major milestone developments in the art of stylizing letters. While taking Graffiti to a real 3D experience is definitely a game changer, there really are not many artists who have gone down this path. This is probably mainly because Graffiti Lettering as sculpture is an extremely complicated form of experimental graffiti in its successful execution, its materials and its placement. It is a unique artistic medium because transforming 2D graffiti to 3D delves away from its usual origins and location, yet it still maintains the roots of aesthetics and style.
A Very Brief History of 3D Graffiti Sculpture
Perhaps the first two artists to dive into 3D graffiti lettering with some recognition are DELTA and DAIM. Both of these artists took their graffiti roots, and their goal of pushing boundaries into creating graffiti sculptures that have continued to intrigue audiences in and out of the graffiti world.
DELTA - Dutch Graffiti Writer and Sculptor
DELTA, a Dutch writer from the 1980s, mixed his interest of 3D lettering with his education in architecture and design. Still today, DELTA continues to create new ways to work with space through combinations of 2D and 3D graffiti installations, sculptures, architecture and canvases.
DAIM - German Graffiti Writer and Sculptor
DAIM, of German origin, began painting in 1989. As his style and notoriety grew, DAIM also decided to combine his fine arts training and with his love of graffiti to create his graffiti in real world 3D sculptures.
5 Graffiti Artist Sculptors You Need to Know
While both DELTA and DAIM could be considered forefathers of the 3D graffiti sculpture movement, the groundwork they laid has continued to be carried forward. Today there are five names that immediately come to mind when talking about 3D graffiti sculpture artists: Peeta, Jankalab, Xavier Magaldi, Fred Plateaus and Kwest. These five artists have continued to build upon the foundation, ideas and concepts that DELTA and DAIM have continued to build over the years.
PEETA - Italian Graffiti Artist and Sculptor
Italian artist, PEETA, began painting in 1993 and has gained worldwide fame for his easily recognizable intricate 3D graffiti pieces. His pieces, murals and canvas work are extremely detailed from the 3D lighting and shadowing, to the patterns, and textures PEETA applies to his lettering. As he has developed his intricate 3D painting style PEETA has continued to push boundaries to create pieces that are actually 3D optical illusions. More recently his massive mural works covering entire enormous facades with his name (PEETA) fuse the surface with the surrounding environment – creating an incredibly massive optical illusion depending on how you view the piece. Given PEETA’s focus on 3D painting and optical illusions, it was only a matter of time before he started to translate his paintings to real world tangible 3D Sculpture. PEETA’s sculptural works, he defines as an essential tool for the understanding of three-dimensionality and the functioning of lights and shadows.
Jan Kaleb aka CAKES aka POINT now Graffiti Sculptor
The Czech artist, Jan Kalab (aka CAKES, aka POINT), is part of the original first generation of writers in the Czech Republic. A Founder of the DSK crew, he was notorious for painting trains and whole cars all over Europe, under the alias, CAKES. In the early 2000s Jan discovered and fell in love with working in 3D styles. He took his personal studies into 3D lettering and transformed them into massive 3D graffiti Letter sculptures under the name POINT. POINT would then take his letter sculptures and identify streets and buildings to install them so that people would see them. He was taking the most basic getting up concept from painting graffiti and applying to graffiti sculpture. It was at this point that he decided to study art and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Today the confluenc of his graffiti work, 3D work and Art Education has consummated into his own abstract language through the use of vividly colored geometric figures with which he explores concepts of depth.
Xavier Magaldi Graffiti Artist and Sculptor
Xavier Magaldi, born and living in Geneva, he discovered graffiti in the late 80's and became hooked on its tremendous energy of the new movement. He became enamored with studying graffiti lettering and its freestyle flow. As his style continued to evolve he developed he continued to push boundaries. Around this time he entered in and graduated from the Geneva School of Watchmaking. The study of watch making gave him an an extremely intricate and technical view of mechanics. This focus on mechanical, technical and intricacies directly influenced his graffiti style in a way that has made his work extremely unique. His style, which he calls Mecafuturismo, derives from a combination of his background and widely acclaimed artistic movements such as Cubism. It is primarily characterized by an obsession for detail, a careful choice of color and elegant imagery that merges with the dynamism of his work as a writer. With the development of his own style, he expanded his work from 2D paintings to take it into 3D sculpture works as well.
Graffiti Sculptor Fred Plateus aka RECTO (Ultra Boyz Crew)
Originating from Belgium, Fred Plateus aka RECTO, is a member of the well-known Ultra Boyz crew. All members of this crew tend to have a similar sort of more futuristic conceptual view to their graffiti. If you look at his pieces as RECTO, you can see the progression from more traditional graffiti, to pushing the boundaries with his throw ups to a focus on technical 3D work. It was only natural that this progression would lead Fred to work in sculpture. Even as he has moved into tangible #D creations, Fred Plateus (as he works under now) is still pushing boundaries almost navigating into a 4th dimension! Movement, stellar journeys, machines, and his fascination with geometric puzzles like the Rubik's Cube (of which he has created his own models with evocative names) form his language and shape his universe. As he has continued to evolve his artwork, Video, performance, sculpture... Nothing escapes his interest.
KWEST Graffiti Artist & Sculptor
Finally hailing from Toronto is KWEST. KWEST is an artist who is perhaps the most faithful to a more traditional wildstyle lettering style of all of those presented in this article. Famous for his wildstyle whole cars on freight trains, when he created what has been called the largest graffiti sculpture in the world a few years ago in Europe. The sculpture was his name carved in wood and assembled letter by letter. That initial transition of his 2D wildstyle pieces into physical 3D sculptures has lead him down a path of continuing to push 3D graffiti. These days KWEST has shifted his graffiti sculptures to become floating works that are carried down the rivers of Canada.
While we have focused on 5 graffiti artists that are pushing the boundaries in graffiti sculpture, they are by no means the only ones working in 3D. Other artists worthy of studying are JOYS (from Italy), or SOZY ONE (from Belgium). Given that transforming graffiti from walls and canvas into 3D sculptures is still in its infancy, there are no doubt many more artists engaging in the medium that will continue to push boundaries and carry 3D graffiti sculpture forward.