Kept - Paper Labels
Edited by Kept
21 x 30 cm
Some 25 years in the making, I present my collection of the now largely defunct spray paint "paper labels".
My interest starts in preserving my own history, as most of these are from cans I used personally. They are now-discontinued colours from various cities and countries. Most were stolen, from gas stations in Sweden to hardware shops in Minneapolis's suburbs.
On one hand, keeping the labels kept a record of the quickly changing seasonal colours; to preserve what paint I had come across. That expanded to an interest in rarer and rarer colours and brands, although I never became an old paint can collector- I always used what I had as quickly as I got it. I expanded it with a trip to Europe in 1996-97. I was given some along the way, notably by Chase UCA. Then the collection sat in a box for many years, and slowly paper labels disappeared from the market altogether. Spray paint for graffiti became a thing and old trusted brands turned to shit.
I became reacquainted with the collection after a move and saw this nostalgic grouping in a new light. As time passed, the variety of logos and types; the spread of the collection, became one of the most interesting things about it. Looking at the old graphic design, at these obsolete labeling systems, and at the overall composition created by wear, aging, discoloration, finger prints, overspray, drips of paint... worked harmoniously with the graphics and historic data on the label. As such, I've included the backs of a few coupled with their fronts, highlighting the accidental and abstract automatic industrial processes of their creation.
In the 90's, long before the era of the full spectrum of pressurised graffiti supplies, you'd paint with whatever you could come up on. Typically with an 'off brand' label of the time, as racking was difficult in cities like San Francisco. You'd have to go to small off-the-beaten-path hardware stores and auto supply shops, using engine paint and primers was normal for bombers. My friend Tie One was one of the most motivated writers I've ever encountered, so he was no exception, racking and dusting cans everyday and night that he had acquired earlier in the day.
To complete the project I peeled off a prized label from a can that belonged to the legendary Tie. It is a stolen can of paint I ended up with after a night of bombing together, shortly before his death. Spattered with silver, it includes his finger prints. Look for them. I've soaked many stubbornly glued cans in pots overnight to peel the next day, this Tie One was the last and most important to complete my collection. - Kept