Dec 282009

Graffiti draws a remarkable counterpart to marketing and advertising. Memorable street campaigns take the same creativity, consistency, branding and visibility needed to make marketing work.

DC Graffiti

Street artists are marketers gone rogue (also a popular theme of the year) – developing and executing creative concepts, many with a specific and often populist tone. Like it or not, the closer you look, the more of a message there is to see in the details of graffiti.

Four Mile Run Bridge 2

Practice Wall 4

Four Mile Run Bridge

Practice Wall 2

Practice Wall 3

DC represented big in 2009, and themes in our graffiti and street art reflected important, meaningful local issues: problems of homelessness, DC’s non-state status, and few (but expanding) outlets for public art. Check out a full photo set of the year in DC graffiti on Flickr.

These are the freshest names and stand out styles in DC graffiti:

Names Up Everywhere:




CHE1 CHE2 CHE+JAKE+Chinatown










Click here to see a Flickr photo set of the year in DC graffiti.

Top Creative in DC Graffiti:


Fill: REZIST. (Next: JAKE). REZIST’s fill-ins are always crazy colorful – and legible. Same with JAKE, who tones down the new school funk and maintains a wild style.



Bomb: CHE. (Next: MOE). A close call but easy to pick. MOE may have more tags up, but CHE is mighty close – with bigger fill-ins and better, riskier, more visible spots. MOE tagged Adams Morgan’s mural on DC’s non-state status – an ironic, shady move to deface a message the rest of DC’s graffiti seems to be all about. Watching CHE and MOE get up this year was like watching the good guy vs. the bad guy – and here, the good guy wins.



Spot: JAKE. (Next: CHE). JAKE is up in the undisputedly best spot in DC – in the middle of the Patomac River on Georgetown’s Key Bridge. To hit the spot, JAKE had to either get a boat, or haul gallons of paint and loads of supplies under the bridge span across its huge arcs, starting at several chainlink fences directly next to the US Park Police office. JAKE’s piece is one of the most visible in the District, in a place that’s the antithesis of graffiti – squeaky clean, picture perfect Georgetown. A huge hassle, if not nearly impossible to remove. It epitomizes graffiti in a clean, simple, colorful piece that carries impressive implications in logistics and location.




Stencil: RVLTN. (Next: 51). Stencil images hit the streets of DC to illuminate two big issues in DC: homelessness and political representation. Amidst the toughest economic time in decades, DC slashed funding to social services that help the homeless. Next, the 51 stencil hit corners and street boxes with a simple, clear, concise message: make DC the 51st state – no matter how our vote tips the political scales.


PEEPSPoster: DECOY (Next: DIABETIK). DECOY covered more DC walls than any other poster artist this year with a distinct style that’s easy to spot. DECOY was part of an awesome cartoon poster campaign in early December at 14th/T (already removed!) along with the next pick: Peeps. All year, poster Peeps popped up all over the place in DC.


Sticker: Crook. This sticker is iconic of everything about graffiti and Washington DC: free speech, politics, corruption and dissent. The sticker’s amazing wit calls attention to the fundamental issues in both graffiti and politics – and common to us all: open access, free speech, expression, opportunity, and equality.


A full photo set of the year in DC’s graffiti is posted on Flickr.

Something missing? Leave a comment and links to pics of your favorite DC graffiti!

  15 Responses to “DC’s Best Graffiti of 2009”

  1. Beautiful, powerful art … of, by, and for the people.

    Kudos to the artists and to

    You should do a book … or an ebook.

  2. Jake and Rezist – surprisingly colorful and detailed! I’ve seen graffiti around DC, but not these works. I’ve obviously not been paying attention! Also, I remember seeing that Key Bridge Jake tag at some point and having the same thought, “how the hell did they get out there; that must have been a pain in the ass!” Great work capturing all of these.

  3. Love the panoramas! thanks for posting.

  4. Are you people serious? Try thinking for one moment about the people who live in the neighborhoods where these vandals operate. If you came out of your house in the morning to see a “Moe” tag on YOUR car or YOUR house, would you blithely coo that it’s “beautiful art, of by and for the people”? What would you say to the little girl in Shaw, where I live, who broke down in tears because her apartment building has been vandalized? Unless you are going to be a total hypocrite, you have to put yourself in the place of the people whose property, place of residence, and neighborhood is being hit by these vandals.

    The people doing this “people’s” art are probably spoiled rich kids like John Tsombikos (a.k.a Borf) who would come in from Great Falls, VA to trash our city, then went back to the safety of Mommy and Daddy’s house in some pristine suburb.

    Unless the owner of the property on which the grafitti appears requested it, it is vandalism, it is a crime, and it should be punished. They should have to personally clean up their mess, repair the damage, make restitution to those that they have harmed, and, probably for the first time in their lives, be held accountable.

    • (disclaimer: ive been painting graffiti in DC for over 25 years and know most of the people mentioned in this list)
      yes, we’re serious. thats the problem. you don’t take anything that doesn’t fit into your narrow wish-i-lived-in-the-50’s worldview seriously. actually, most of the people on this list are DC residents (probably longer than you’ve been) who feel they have no avenue but to express themselves in public space. how they differ from mega-corporations who shove their imagery down our throats every day, i’m not sure. i agree, you should not alter most privately-owned personal property, but, i and others differ with your opinion on public space and public property, which is where most graf mentioned on this blog occurred. I lived in Shaw in the 80’s and early 90’s and graf was the least of people’s worries. Now, it seems to be a huge problem. Well, I’m sorry: you’ve displaced a lot of the people, but not all. And many of them love to paint graf. Your attitude towards them seems to be incredibly patronizing: “spoiled rich kids”, “go back Mommy and Daddy’s house”? Most of these people are adults, with points of view and reasons for doing what they’re doing. Maybe they should clean up their “mess” and then be encouraged to create greater works in their communities where they live. I think you would be surprised at what could happen.

      • Actually I take it quite seriously, and I can’t wait to see somebody in the act of vandalizing my neighborhood so that I can turn them in to the police.

        Patronizing? What could be more patronizing than the self-absorbed idea that you get to determine what somebody else’s property looks like – public property included, which belongs to all of us, not just you. We people who live in the city don’t want our public property vandalized. We will pursue people who vandalize property, just like we pursued Clear Channel for their illegal billboards that were at the corner of New Jersey and P and are GONE now.

        Click on the link above, look at the mess you people have made, and tell me whether you are proud of it.

    • The true crime is what the TV makes with or kids everyday. Vandalism is live without job in this “rich country”. Vandalism is the lives of our young generation who dies in the war for freedom in the Middle east!
      You are another person controlled by this failed american system which makes the people slaves.

      I dont think that you know what is have a really poor life because you are there in your great house drinking a cup of coffee and making comments like this bullshit you are saying. Shame on you!

      Please! tell us where is your neighborhood so we can make some art over there.

  5. not sure who it is, but that piece under kuma isn’t jake.

  6. Check the other side of dat bridge I’m sure spots were Ty between Che and Jake

  7. Graffiti is a sub culture you obviously will never understand and it’s people like you that make us go harder and vandalize more and you can already tell in 2010 it will just continue to grow if you really have a problem with your apt building just give me the address and I’ll personally come clean it up for you

  8. And that’s gamble not jake

  9. fuck you yuppie mother fuckers who come here bitchin about graff on the side of your row house, these are not your neighborhoods, fuck “charles walker”, carribou coffee and all the rest of you hating bitches. And fuck this website too, acting like you know shit running around with your camera taking pictures of peoples shit then trying to pass it off as your art work with your little water marks and trying to sell it, thats some faggot shit. You guys dont know shit about graff and you never will, because you dont write and even if you tried shit wouldnt fly. borf is a fuckin beast and none of give half a fuck about your feelings, ill paint on your car, house, church, ill paint what ever the fuck i want and not one of you faggots can do shit about it, go cry to that big head faggot fenty and see what happens…not shit cuz graff wont stop……FUCK YOU ,, HOODLUM for LIFE!!!!

  10. Great collection! I like your description of graf artists as marketers gone rogue, how ironic. Really nice photos, too- I wish there were an easier way to see them blown-up or zoomed in.

  11. where is the best graffiti in dc? georgetown specifically.

  12. wait, the article that Charles Walker linked to is actually hilarious. It attributes moe’s tags to a vicious gang.

    “I’m wondering if the City might put out a reward for information leading to the arrest of members of the “Moe” gang, to inspire more citizen/resident action and vigilance.”

    ahaha, props to moe for being up so much that yuppies think he’s multiple people.

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