[From the New York Times, October 26, 2010]
❚ ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN LOST in the last few weeks around the southern reaches of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn could be excused for experiencing a powerful Koch administration flashback. On the wall of a brick warehouse there, a huge mural unfurls itself, a loving, seemingly spray-by-spray re-creation of one of the more infamous pieces of graffiti ever to ride the subway: a 1980 work by the artist known as Seen that covered the length of a No 6 train car with the ominous phrase “Hand of Doom”.
It is the work of a newly formed collective of (mostly) former graffiti writers in their 20s and 30s, who have embarked on an unusual citywide campaign to summon 50 or more of the most famous pieces of old-school graffiti out of the history books and back onto the streets. The project, called Subway Art History, is unusual not only because the artists are making the pieces with the permission of businesses, schools and other perhaps nostalgic owners of blank vertical space, but also because of the nature of the pieces themselves. They are expressions of homage in a subculture that has almost always been defined by fierce competition, intense striving for originality and a kill-the-elders attitude toward the past.
“In graffiti it’s like a teenage thing: No way am I going to become my father, no way am I going to make anything that looks like anyone else’s. — Then, of course, you become your father,” said a 32-year-old former graffiti writer who helped form the collective.
❚ View video — 25th anniversary of Subway Art, bible of the graffiti movement, by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant: