This month the art of American graffiti will be turning forty. In an article published in the New York Times on July 21st, 1971, titled "TAKI 183 Spawns Pen Pals" the newspaper featured a teenager named Demetrius and identified him -- last name withheld, of course -- as the guy behind the infamous tag line scribbled all over NYC. The piece marked the beginning of a movement that is thought by many as the ultimate modern art form and by a few, a polluting nuisance. Undeniably, as all of us who live in urban jungles know, the American graffiti is here to stay.
To celebrate this landmark anniversary and the publication of The History of American Graffiti by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon, a fantastic new book about the movement, the Hole Gallery in Downtown Manhattan will host an event and book signing featuring authors Gastman and Neelon and the otherwise reclusive TAKI 183. Now considered a founding father and a graffiti legend, TAKI 183 wrote the foreword for the book, which is the first mainstream, comprehensive history of American graffiti, from its roots in the 1800s, to the art form's present-day pop culture status.
Roger Gastman has always been fascinated by graffiti, grew up writing it on the walls of the streets of Bethesda, Maryland and then managed to become a mediator between the street artists and mainstream art venues. He has co-curated the exhibit "Art in the Streets" currently at MoCA in Los Angeles and founded and published two pop-culture magazines -- Swindle and While You Were Sleeping. Co-author Caleb Neelon can also boast painting the streets of over twenty countries on five continents, writing several books including Graffiti Brasil and Caleb Neelon's Book of Awesome, and was editor-at-large of Swindle magazine.
Exclusively for the Huffington Post, Gastman and Neelon share a few choice slides from their book and personal anecdotes about each image. The slides and the must-have book offer a journey inside a culture so fascinating and yet so easily overlooked, even though it covers walls all around us. It's certainly hard to believe it has been four decades since those subway cars turned artists' canvases and street writing became the new "frescoes".
All images courtesy of the authors, used by permission