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American Graffiti

American Graffiti
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The first appearances of graffiti “tags” (signatures) on New York City subway trains in the early 1970s were discarded as incidents of vandalism or the rough, violent cries of the ignorant and impoverished. However, as the graffiti movement progressed and tags became more elaborate and ubiquitous, genuine artists emerged whose unique creativity and unconventional media captured the attention of the world.

Featuring gallery and street works by several contributors to the graffiti scene, this book offers insight into the lives of urban artists, describes their relationship with the bourgeois art world, and discusses their artistic motivation with unprecedented sensitivity.

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Subway Writers
Not all subway writers wanted to become gallery artists. This aspiration, though, is the common thread that links the writers I will introduce in this chapter who became graffiti artists in New York City in the early 1980s. They had mastered their medium and earned reputations within a highly-elaborated writing subculture that had begun at least a decade before. To inscribe nicknames or street names on neighbourhood walls began as a way to mark a gang’s turf but it became widespread beginning in June 1971, when a messenger who called himself TAKI 183 began putting his name wherever he went in the city, and his ubiquity led to an article in The New York Times.[14] School was out of session for the summer, unemployment among teenagers was high, and TAKI’s imitators took up permanent markers and later aerosol paint to write their own names everywhere. The public walls and subway cars filled with tags, as the nicknames were known, so writers worked to make theirs distinctive with eye-catching style.
By 1973, tags were pervasive and striking enough that cultural commentators took notice. Norman Mailer celebrated the writers he interviewed in his 1974 book The Faith of Graffiti and imitated them in the text by giving himself the tag ‘A-I’ for ‘Aesthetic Investigator.’ Art critic Richard Goldstein wrote in New York Magazine, ‘the most significant thing about graffiti was not their destructiveness but their cohesion, bringing together a whole generation of lower-class kids in an