Retro Graffiti: Nostalgia Hits the Streets

Posted by | on October 20, 2008

From old school wall scrawls to modern mosaics, urban terrorism and nostalgia collide on the streets of cities around the world. Tags, wild-stylez, stencils and everything else out there with a slightly geeky retro twist.

Back in the mid-80s street art as much a part of the urban scene as cardboard breaks, track suits, ghetto blastas, and fat laces. The art was big, bold and neon fantastic, proclaiming individuality and life on the front lines of the hip hop revolution. Some people dismissed it as vandalism, and connected it to gang activities, but others saw it as an almost tribal cry for preservation of culture, and a symbol of neighborhood pride. Graffiti got into a lot of people’s heads, and hearts. Remember Beat Street ?

Later on, street art evolved into a world wide phenomenon showcasing new cultural influences, messages, and wilder, more eye-catchig styles (Warning : watch out for the “F” Bomb). A lot of modern taggers acknowledge the nostalgia intrinsic with picking up a spray can and leaving your mark on your home town. Laying down your ideas on walls caked with remnants of past revolutions connects you to a place and it’s people, and makes your shoes magically transform into high-tops… at least that’s what I’ve heard.

A lot of modern street artists have embraced a more nostalgia and nerd-oriented style, incorporating Saturday morning cartoon icons and pixel-ised video game characters into their wall scrawls. It’s not rare to be staring out the window of the bus cruising East-end Vancouver and spy a seven foot tall blinged-out Q-Bert scratching on monster turntables. Hip-hop and geek-chic have finally met halfway, just look at the recent Vinyl Toy popularity explosion.

So I’ve been doing some image collecting, and hopefully haven’t completely obliterated any copyright laws. I’ve got a retrospective of classic styles, a couple ‘o Flickr sets, and one or two modern bombers who have made an international splash with their personal nod to nostalgia. I’ve linked each image to it’s source and did my best to acknowledge the artists, but if you see a mistake, or whatever, lemmie know.

Old Skool

I decided to start off by dropping’s late 70s-style time capsule on ‘ya. These pics are of a building in NY which was scheduled for renovation when interior walls yielded up a ‘freshy fresco. Among the scrawl are the tags of early graffiti innovators like Sammo, the Fab Five and Futura 2000.

By sheer luck I found this MSN Photo Group a couple’o weeks ago dedicated to the preservation of Chicago street art from the 80s to the present. I’m glad I did! The amount of leg work to get all these photos and archival pics is staggering and inspiring, much respect.

I linked through the MSN group to the homepage of the 80s graffiti collective “Artistic Bombing Crew” (or “ABC”). They have a fantastic collection of 80s-era street art pics that really capture that fat, bright ‘n shiny style that inspires me to practice my non-existent pop’n'lock techniques.


Banksy is THE big name in bombing right now. This cheeky, yet charming artist from Britain has a very distinctive stencil-like style and a passion for nostalgia and satire. Make friends with the revolution at Banksy’s Site, and check out some more Damn Cool Pics.

Nintendo 8 Bit

Pixel-ised retro ‘lovin direct from the streets of Norway! Flickr messiah TheFunkyHorror has thrown up a massive cache of 8-bit street art featuring an all star crew of Nintendo greats.

Because of it’s pixely candy coating, 8-bit art naturally lends itself to quick ‘n easy stenciling. The Mario on top is a Flickr gem, while the Super Mushroom comes direct from the Nerd Lords at Kotaku.


Yeah, that’s none other than Krang and my boy Shredder from the 80s Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles cartoon. Brokentao’s Xanga Site has full coverage of this massive TMNT-themed wall’o'fame (not sure where). Killer old school style!

Grab ‘Yo Joystick

Looks like I wasn’t the only one blowing his childhood at the arcade. The badass Donkey Kong mural is (once again) another Flickr find, while the chalk Pac Man art is from The RiotACT.


I couldn’t resist throwing up this early 80s-esque Stardust Masterpiece by Power Pop from Brazil. The pic is clipped from which is a must-bookmark for street art lovers.

Space Invaders

ALERT ALERT !!! A Street Artist from Paris with a quirky love of slapping mosiac-tiled Atari sprites around town has become a world-wide collective of Space Invaders and the people who find and document them. This is nostalgic graffiti on a heartwarmingly massive scale. Join the Invasion HERE !!!

Too kewl, I’m gonna leave you with one last bit of love I sourced from toponymy‘s Blogspot. I’ll post more (and there is sooooo much more out there) when I get a chance, till then keep your eyes open. These memory bombs are in every city on the planet.

Much Love.

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2 Responses to “Retro Graffiti: Nostalgia Hits the Streets”

  1. AvatarPeter


    I am selling various prints by:

    Banksy (DiFaced tenner) and others
    Sick Boy
    Faile and others.

    If you are interested, Please email me at


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  2. AvatarLarry "Liontamer" Oji

    Video game graffiti of course means I approve!

    Larry “Liontamer” Oji
    Assistant Soundtrack Director, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
    Head Submissions Evaluator, OverClocked ReMix –
    Creator, VG Frequency –
    Staff, VGMdb –

    Reply to this comment.