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Thread: Graffiti

  1. #31
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    Let see if my brain works well, but wasn't there a popular inner-city movie release in the mid 80's where they show 'thugs' (or actors) painting NYC subway cars with graffiti? :?

    I don't remeber the name or the actors but there was music and graffiti and dancing going on.

  2. #32
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Sep 2003


    Wasn't that "Beat It" with our friend and Inner City Representative MJ?

  3. #33
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    Well.. No it wans't a music video.

    I know what you are talking about...but I think that the MJ video was shot in the 'mean gang infested' streets of LA.

    where apparantly I heard that after they film the video the gangs cut his nose with a blade...dont quote me on this one. :roll:

  4. #34

  5. #35
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Manhattan - UWS


    Yes of course that's it. Thanks! :P

    There were so many of them my mind was confuse with color.

    This is the one with the subways that had graffiti 'thugs'. (Good art though not just tagging I am afraid)

    I am having flashbacks!!! I need to rent it.

  6. #36


    July 9, 2004

    Lawbreakers, Armed With Paint and Paste


    A building at Spring and Elizabeth Streets has street art that includes Mao Zedong, a bird's head and a "Polaroid scene." The city regards all forms of street art, including stickers, paper cutouts, painting and metalwork, as vandalism.

    A Street Art Tour
    Swoon, a street artist who has gained prominence around New York, guides a tour of her work.

    Swoon frontloads her days with caffeine and works on her art late into the night. It can take her two weeks to produce a series of the large, intricate paper cutouts and hand-pulled block prints that have gained her considerable renown in one particular sector of the art world. When she is done - her arms aching and her clothes and skin speckled with paint and ink - she takes her pieces outside, slaps them up on old walls around the city, then disappears on her bike.

    That is when her work, now left to the mercy of the elements and public taste, comes alive. "You know, it's weird, but I love it," she said. "I don't feel they need to be kept in a vault as precious art."

    Swoon, 26, is a luminary in a movement known, at least among many of its proponents, as street art. Two decades after the heyday of graffiti, the spray can has given way to posters, stickers, stencils and construction tools, and the streets of New York and other cities around the world vibrate more than ever with the work - some say the destruction - of guerrilla artists like her. (Swoon is a nom de peinture; like many other artists interviewed for this article, she asked that her real name not be used for fear of prosecution because unauthorized graffiti is illegal.)

    The movement is sustained and driven by Web sites, magazines, word of mouth and its practitioners' self-righteousness.

    At one end of the spectrum are doodles, icons and designs, often drawn or printed on stickers, a medium that allows for pre-strike preparation at home and quick, furtive execution in public.

    Others are using more complicated art techniques, such as the meticulous printing and paperwork preferred by Swoon, ceramics, lithography, silk screening, painting , leathersmithing and woodworking. Some have even used welding torches, notably the once-ubiquitous New York graffiti writer known as Revs, who has installed three-dimensional versions of his stylized name, or "tag," around the city. Darius (also known by his graffiti tag, Verbs) and Downey, a Brooklyn tandem now living in London, turn old street signs into sculptures or small billboards for provocative messages and reinstall them, often in the plain light of day. "We're using the city against itself," Downey, 23, said in a recent interview.

    Any surface goes; the more visible and the less frequently buffed the better: walls, doors, the backs of stop signs, the base of light poles, utility boxes, trash bins, sidewalks, rooftops, the frames of subway car advertisements.

    In New York, the streets of the Lower East Side and SoHo, Dumbo and Williamsburg are filled with fresh work. Even in the most closely policed neighborhoods, rare is the city block where some visual mischief has not been unleashed.

    "Size is not what it's about," said Marc Schiller, 40, a New York marketing executive who, as a hobby, runs the Wooster Collective, a curatorial Web site for street art around the world. "It's about being clever. It's about being unique." (One unknown artist has arrayed 18 luggage locks, each decorated with a baby's picture, on a fence on Crosby Street in SoHo. Periodically the artist will rearrange the locks to make a new design.)

    And while much of the work seems to be art for art's sake - or at least humor's sake - street art occasionally resonates with overt social and political commentary. In one arresting series that recently appeared (and just as quickly disappeared) in Lower Manhattan, an artist replaced the silhouetted dancers in the current iPod advertisement with silhouettes of Abu Ghraib torture victims. The tag line "10,000 songs in your pocket, Mac or PC" became "10,000 volts in your pocket, guilty or innocent."

    Like any artistic movement, the origins of street art are nebulous, though it is clearly an outgrowth of the stylized graffiti writing that began in New York in the 1960's and became emblematic of hip-hop culture. According to Tristan Manco, a graphic designer in Bristol, England, and author of the street art compendium "Street Logos," the term "street art" was first used in the 1980's in reference to urban guerrilla art that was not hip-hop graffiti, and described the pioneering work of New York painters like Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, and Parisian stencil artists like Blek and Nemo.

    Street art has since spread around the world, from the East End of London to Tokyo, Moscow to Johannesburg, Melbourne, Australia, to Săo Paulo, Brazil. And in spite of the movement's underground nature, the work of today's most prominent street artists is increasingly sought by galleries and collectors around the world, though the pieces are not yet fetching the sums attached to the art of New York's graffiti pioneers. (Mr. Haring's chalk drawings on black subway-advertisement placeholders command thousands of dollars at auction.)

    Ask street artists to talk about why they do what they do, and brace for a torrent of rationalization. Shepard Fairey, a 34-year-old artist who is famous for his global "Obey Giant" sticker campaign featuring the glowering mug of the late World Wrestling Federation star Andre the Giant, has even published a manifesto in which he calls his work "an experiment in Phenomenology," the first aim of which, he says, "is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one's environment."

    Artists and their supporters say they are simply responding to what they regard as a visual assault by corporations and commercial interests. "Why is the ad I see in the Gap more acceptable than any art that I hang on a public lamppost?" Mr. Schiller asks. "Let's balance the scales a bit. We're talking about anybody having the right to express themselves." (If Mr. Schiller's message seems incongruous with his profession - marketing - he says he hopes his passion for street art has made him better at his job by making him more sensitive to the negative effects of advertising.)

    But many street artists will admit to a less noble motivation: the urge to go out and break the law. The waft of fresh wheat paste, it seems, can inspire a night of vandalism. "That's something that people really love about it: getting over on the man," said Kelly Burns, 38, the author of the book "INY," a photographic exploration of New York street art.

    The law does not make a distinction between a tag scratched on a sticker or Swoon's cutouts. It is all vandalism. (The New York Police Department turned down a request for an interview.)

    Swoon, who has never been arrested, says she is "fully in touch with the ambiguity" of what she does - by which she means the illegality. So she picks her spots carefully, exploring what she calls "third spaces" - not really public, maybe private, undoubtedly neglected. Her backdrops include abandoned buildings, rundown warehouses, and broken walls. "There are so many spaces that don't really need to be brown," she said.

    Swoon first took her art to the street five years ago while she was a fine-arts student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She was compelled to take her work outside after suffering what she calls "the quiet, boring preciousness" of the gallery world.

    "I wanted to jump out of my skin," she said. But the streets were free and open to a wider range of expression. "Because it's kind of an outlaw thing, you don't have to go through official channels," she explained. "It's trying to create a visual commons out of the derelict walls of the city." (She has since returned to the gallery scene, as the star of her own shows in Berlin, Miami and Cincinnati. "I need to make a living," she shrugged.)

    On a recent afternoon, Swoon, a fit, enthusiastic woman with wavy, strawberry blond hair and a small silver nose ring, interrupted her work on her most recent project, which was a day or two away from completion, to give a brief bicycle tour of some of the pieces that have survived in Boerum Hill and Prospect Heights. Her recent and most famous work involves life-size cutouts and block prints of people with which, she says, she is "populating the city."

    She stopped in front of the trash-strewn loading dock of an old warehouse on Bergen Street near Flatbush Avenue, across the street from a police station in Prospect Heights. A worn silhouette of a hooded, hunched man lurked on the wall. "It's a good place for him to hang out," she said warmly. "I want them to become part of their space, to interact in a human way. A sticker can't do that."

    Swoon avoids sentimentality and regards her distribution method as a game of evolutionary fate. "I'm getting them out there and seeing which ones survive, like baby sea turtles," she explained. Even her preferred paper - newsprint, a highly fragile material - limits the life expectancy of her work. But she loves how the paper curls and rots, giving the art character and a voice where there might otherwise be silence.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  7. #37


    August 8, 2004

    Museum With (Only) Walls


    Slide Show: Aerosol Art

    THERE's a world-class museum on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City that's free, that's open 24/7 and that shows the top artists in their field. It has hundreds of artworks, most of them huge: murals with allegorical tales of good and evil, modern takes on Rembrandt, variations on and homages to grunge comix and the golden age of Mad magazine. The art is constantly changing, the staff is paid nothing and anyone can show there. Almost every artist uses a nom de plume. The best view is from the elevated No. 7 train.

    It's not the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center but the blocklong establishment across the street — 5 Pointz: The Institute of Higher Burnin'. 5 Pointz (the name signifies the five boroughs) is New York's hub for the high aerosol — or spray-can — art. The outside walls, the rooftops and especially the loading dock, not to mention the indoor halls and air shafts or the trucks parked outside, are its Technicolor showcase.

    Formerly known as the Phun Phactory, 5 Pointz is the vision of Jonathan Cohen — tag name Meres — whose dream is to have the building "100 percent covered." Artists have come from Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil and all over the United States to "piece" — make a masterpiece — at 5 Pointz. Murals are up for between a week and a year before they are painted over, and no artist is turned away.

    Don't confuse the art on display here with graffiti, Meres cautions: "Graffiti is a label for writers who vandalize. Aerosol art takes hours and days. It's a form of calligraphy." (Breathing in aerosol fumes over the years has damaged his health, he says. Like many aerosol artists, he wears a mask to work.)

    Random tagging — casually spraying your name across a surface — is against the rules at 5 Pointz. A derivative of gang writing, tagging is a way to mark territory. "There's nothing artistic about a tag," says the artist Nic 1, who helps Meres manage the site. "A tag is just expressing anger or whatever. You can tag blindfolded on the phone. Pieces are considered art."

    A tag evolves into a piece when the letters become calligraphic, "taking on a style concept and a sense of structure and abstractness," Nic 1 says. But pieces can also be just pictures. When several pieces by one or more artists make up a larger picture, it becomes a "production."

    5 Pointz has the blessing of the building's landlord, the developer Jerry Walkoff, who has owned it since 1971. "I have a certain passion for people in the art business," says Mr. Walkoff, who rents studio space in the building to about 90 artists and leases the rest mostly to garment-industry enterprises. As for the aerosol artworks on his property, he says, "I have no problem as long as they do it tastefully and don't endanger themselves." (More 5 Pointz art, past and present, can be seen at and at )

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #38


    November 16, 2004


    Remembering and Defending Subway Graffiti


    Lee Quinones, who now has a studio in Brooklyn, used subway cars for his work in the 1970's. "There was an agenda here for us," he says.

    Christopher Ellis once used to paint on subway cars. He said he saw it as a gesture of defiance at a time when entire blocks in the South Bronx had been obliterated. Now, he and a partner, John Matos, who share a studio near 149th Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx, sell their work to serious collectors for as much as $25,000, and find themselves in the enviable position of turning down work.

    A wall in Lee Quinones's studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard is covered with words, hundreds of them, done in thick, angular strokes that dance. The style is familiar, which is no surprise. What's odd is that his name doesn't dominate the wall, since Mr. Quinones first became famous for writing LEE in huge, solid letters on subway trains.

    "We're All Waitin' on a Moment" reads one of the many phrases written in black marker on his studio wall. Mr. Quinones has had plenty of moments: he was among the generation of 1970's graffiti writers who went from spraying their names on trains to painting entire subway cars with intricately colored pieces. He was also in the vanguard of those who traded trains for canvas and went from eluding the police inside subway yards to courting serious collectors at galleries here and in Europe.

    Despite his ascension to cult figure, some moments will never come, not if the Metropolitan Transit Authority can help it. This year, as the city celebrates the subway's centennial, graffiti has not only been erased from cars, it has also been buffed from the official record. The few mentions of it now are obligatory - and brief - references to it as a plague that epitomized a chaotic and decrepit city.

    Mr. Quinones understands the discomfort. He has confronted it ever since he was a teenager who used to watch commuters' faces as they saw his painted cars rumble into stations carrying messages that ranged from playful to political.

    "You felt people were kind of intimidated," said Mr. Quinones, 44. "They were adults watching something created by youths while everybody was asleep. There was an agenda here for us, not wanton vandalism. But the M.T.A. has not wanted to admit that, because our work was becoming more political and less individual."

    Two galleries have mounted exhibitions to commemorate the era. Marcoart, on the Lower East Side, is displaying 100 subway maps tagged by various graffiti writers. And more than 100 artists have painted whole train cars - albeit tiny model trains - for a show at the Showroom NYC, in the East Village.

    "We have our own history, and I want transit historians to realize they're missing something," said Raul Cordero, 45, also known as Duro, whose work occupies a place of honor in the show. "Whenever the train rolled, part of me rolled with it."

    Many riders, who endured daily visual assaults of paint-slathered windows and sometimes offensive writings, are hardly nostalgic for the era. Similarly, transit officials - who declared the system graffiti- free in May 1989 - have a less-romantic assessment.

    "Irrespective of the art argument, that was a time when the system looked like nobody was in charge," said Paul Fleuranges, a transit authority spokesman. "It was vandalism. If it was art, they wouldn't have had to scale fences, dodge dogs and cops. "

    Yet the work of the top graffiti writers of the 1970's and early 1980's, which by some estimates includes several dozen at most, documents a crucial component of early hip-hop culture. That culture - where teenagers without bands made music by mixing song snippets and artists without studios painted entire subway lines - has since become a worldwide (and multibillion-dollar) phenomenon.

    Its influence is such that some techniques originated by graffiti writers are now commonplace. Ivor L. Miller, author of "Aerosol Kingdom" (University Press of Mississippi, 2002), noted how the sides of buses in some cities are covered with a single advertisement. Even in New York, celebratory signs for the Mets and Yankees have festooned trains.

    "It has been co-opted by corporations to sell products," he said. "Those advertisements subvert the very logic of the system. When you see whole cars covered with an ad, that's O.K. because it's paid for. It's not done by kids from the street."

    He added that money - or the lack of it - might explain why officials refuse to admit that some of the subway painters actually had talent. Rather than buy space, they were visual squatters. "It is class warfare," he said. "These are self-taught kids who did not go to school to do what they did."

    Christopher Ellis, who is better known as Daze, first learned about graffiti from the sketchbooks toted by his classmates at the High School of Art and Design. The real challenge came when he moved up to trains. He said he saw the subway car paintings as a way of adding a defiant touch of life to the South Bronx when entire blocks had been obliterated.

    "There was something positive coming out of these desolate environments," he insisted the other day, before going to Brazil for an exhibition of his work. "That was when the Bronx was burning, yet there were these trains with color."

    Mr. Ellis, 42, and John Matos, 43, have shared a studio near 149th Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx for 20 years now. They could probably afford to move, but they say their location ensures that only serious collectors come their way to spend as much as $25,000 on a canvas. They are in the enviable position of turning down work.

    Though Mr. Ellis has come a long way from the subway, the system still fascinates him, at least as subject matter for a recent series of paintings of stations. The series revisits some of the places he used to go to paint trains in Queens and the Bronx. In one painting of the Zerega Avenue station on the No. 6 line, a lone police officer stands on a platform with spotless walls.

    "Graffiti used to make the subway ride more interesting for me, even if I was looking at something other than my work," he said. "Now, like anyone else, I'm more concerned with getting to where I am going as fast as I can."

    Yet their years on the trains have affected their artistic vision. Some of them talk about not being afraid to use bold colors. Others say they can paint in tight spaces. Many said speed was still a hallmark of their technique.

    Mr. Matos, who earlier this year had a show in Paris, said the much-dreaded buff - the machine that sort of scrubbed the paint off subway cars - actually did many of them a service.

    "I thank the M.T.A. for buffing the trains," Mr. Matos, known as Crash, said. "There is nothing left but the history, and this history is what propelled us. How could I hold it against the M.T.A.? What we were doing was illegal. We weren't supposed to be there. What we had, we took."

    Few have taken it as far as Mr. Quinones. His studio is a soft-lit space tucked into an industrial landscape of towering cranes and mammoth sheds. Inside, books and paintings reflect his interests - trains and cars, buildings and machines. The studio is like his dream clubhouse, since he grew up in the projects on the other side of the East River. Moses-like, he holds up two panels from subway cars featuring vintage graffiti.

    "To me, the waterfront and its machines were always an integral part of what made New York function," he said. "I was always interested in the shape of things, how they functioned, how their charisma was built up by the air around them."

    Few things, he said, had the aura of a subway car.

    "I love the way they rocked," he said. "They had a ghetto strut to them. It was aggressive."

    So was his graffiti, sometimes touching upon crime or the possibility of nuclear doom. His more recent paintings still have attitude. One of them is a 9/11-themed vista of Lower Manhattan's rooftops showing military helicopters creeping into ground zero. Another is of people covering their ears and hunching up their shoulders as they watch drag racers.

    A Parisian collector once told him his work was unnerving. It was a compliment. A quarter-century ago, some New York commuters said the same thing for very different reasons. Mr. Quinones said maybe they'll change their minds in the next 25 years.

    "If people are going to live in the dark, I'll leave the light on for them," he said. "The art will explain it all."

    A common passing scene in the New York City of the 1970's.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  9. #39


    Great article. Thanks, Christian.

  10. #40


    Im glad graffiti isnt on cars anymore. IMO graffiti makes a city look bad.

  11. #41
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Fairfax, VA


    Written on a bathroom wall in NYC, mid-80s:

    "Morgan Lives!"

    Someone else (later, it appears) modified the above to read, "Morgan Guarantee Trust Company Lives!"

    Odd sense of humor, but I always remembered how perfectly New York this all seemed.

  12. #42


    Graffiti = NYC
    NYC = Graffiti = NYC culture love it or hate it (we are our own!)

  13. #43


    Amen, Gonzea. Give me graffiti over those sticky coporate advertising posters any day of the week. THAT makes a city look bad, in my opinion.

  14. #44
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Tampa Florida


    I don't really mind the grafitti. Actually i enjoy seeing it sometimes because it reminds me of NYC. If i lived there it might be a different story though.

  15. #45
    Banned Member
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    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    Williamsburg seems to be one of the only communities left, that I know of, that still embraces it as an art form. There are some superb pieces there.

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