Primary Source

Hash Masterpiece, Brooklyn Schoolyard [Graffiti]


In graffiti artists' terminology, this work is called a "masterpiece," or more commonly, a "piece." It was painted on a Brooklyn high school's retaining wall in the mid-1990s, and was one among about 50 such works in the schoolyard (sections of the adjoining pieces can be seen at the ends). This piece is approximately 20 feet long by 6 feet high, and probably took the artist about 3-4 hours of steady work and about 4 to 6 cans of spray paint to complete.

Rather than write their "birth" names, graffiti artists design a new name for themselves, usually based on the visual qualities of the letters and/or puns and cultural associations of the selected word. Illegibility can be a measure of skill, demonstrating the artist’s ability to creatively distort letters to produce abstract and unexpected (but striking) visual patterns. Many graffiti artists working in this more abstract mode are known by their individual "style," even if few can read the words they write.


Joe Austin, personal photograph.

How to Cite This Source

"Hash Masterpiece, Brooklyn Schoolyard [Graffiti]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #306, (accessed August 10, 2021). Annotated by Joe Austin