Taking the Train: How Graffiti Art Became An Urban Crisis in New York City

By Joe Austin | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

The ultimate point seems to be[:]
What kind of city do people want to
live in? The stone gray and earth
colors that we've erected around us,
the vast labyrinths of monolithic
structures that dwarf the scale of
man set the tone for the daily lives
of city dwellers. It's the natural
impulse of people who are very
alive to decorate their environment,
make it beautiful. The ultimate ques
tion raised by graffiti is[:]
What would a wildly decorated
city look like?
—Jamie Bryan,
High Times (August 1996) 1

I begin with two very brief stories.

On the evening of July 3, 1976, three writers, 2 caine, mad 103, and flame one, entered the No. 7 Flushing to Manhattan subway line storage yard in Queens. Climbing through a hole in the fence, they brought along a huge quantity of (stolen) spray paint in precisely selected colors, as well as sketches for the “Freedom Train” that they intended to paint. They decided on a train and, during the next several hours, worked in the dark to paint all eleven cars, top to bottom, in a coordinated bicentennial theme, anticipating the city's elaborate Fourth of July cele-

-1-

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Taking the Train: How Graffiti Art Became An Urban Crisis in New York City
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Popular Cultures, Everyday Lives *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Taking the Train *
  • Prologue 1
  • 1 - A Tale of Two Cities 9
  • 2 - The Formation and Structure of "Writing Culture" in the Early 1970s 38
  • 3 - The Construction of Writing as an Urban Problem 75
  • 4 - The New York School of the 1970s 107
  • 5 - The Transit Crisis, the Aesthetics of Fear, and the Second "War on Graffiti" 134
  • 6 - Writing Histories 167
  • 7 - Retaking the Trains 207
  • 8 - Writing Culture, 1982–1990 227
  • Conclusion - A Spot on the Wall 267
  • Appendix - Sources from Writers on the History of Writing 273
  • Notes 275
  • Selected Bibliography 341
  • Acknowledgments 345
  • Index 349
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