Aerosol Kingdom: Subway Painters of New York City

Aerosol Kingdom: Subway Painters of New York City

by Ivor L Miller
     
 

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Hailed as the seminal study of spray can art of the 1970s and 1980s, Aerosol Kingdom explores the origins and aesthetics of graffiti writings.

From a vast array of inherited traditions and gritty urban lifestyles talented and renegade young New Yorkers spawned a culture of their own, a balloon-lettered shout heralding the coming of hip-hop. Though

Overview

Hailed as the seminal study of spray can art of the 1970s and 1980s, Aerosol Kingdom explores the origins and aesthetics of graffiti writings.

From a vast array of inherited traditions and gritty urban lifestyles talented and renegade young New Yorkers spawned a culture of their own, a balloon-lettered shout heralding the coming of hip-hop. Though helpless in checking its spreading appeal, city fathers immediately went on the attack and denounced it as vandalism. Many aficionados, however, recognized its trendy aesthetic immediately. By the 1980s spray-paint art hit the mainstream, and subway painters, mostly from marginal barrios of the city, became art world darlings. Their proliferating, ephemeral art was spotlighted in downtown galleries, in the media, and thereafter throughout the land. Not only did the practice of “public signaturing” take over New York City, but also, as the images moved through the neighborhoods on the subway cars, it also grabbed hold in the suburbs. Soon it stirred worldwide imitation and helped spark the hip-hop revolution.

As the artists wielded their spray cans, they expressed their acute social consciousness. Aerosol Kingdom documents their careers and records the reflections of key figures in the movement. It examines converging forces that made aerosol art possible—the immigration of Caribbean peoples, the reinforcing presence of black American working-class styles and fashions, the effects of advertising on children, the mass marketing of spray cans, and the popular protests of the 1960s and 1970s against racism, sexism, classism, and war.

The creative period of the movement lasted for over twenty years, but most of the original works have vanished. Official cleanup of public sites erased great pieces of the heyday. They exist now only in photographs, in the artists' sketchbooks, and now in Aerosol Kingdom.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With its now-familiar presence in art galleries, advertising and pop culture around the world, it can be hard to remember that graffiti was once outlaw art. Art critic Ivor Miller takes us back to the New York City of the 1970s and '80s, where "writers," as graffiti artists called themselves, used the subways as canvases and mayors spent millions of dollars trying to erase their work. Based on interviews with the most prolific and talented aerosol artists of the era, the scholarly Aerosol Kingdom: Subway Painters of New York City looks at the evolution of graffiti art, its role in hip-hop culture and the various social forces that led to its creation from white flight to the mass marketing of spray paint. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Though much of the graffiti in New York City has been cleaned up since its heyday in the 1970s, it is still easy to see evidence of the "aerosol kingdom" throughout the city. What might not be apparent are the influences, motivations, and social conditions that stimulated the first graffiti artists (or "writers," as they call themselves) to consider the city's subways as moving steel canvases. Miller, who has published in such journals as Third Text and African Studies Review, provides a somewhat haphazard examination of various facets of the aerosol culture, including the influences of modern vernacular on imagery, the historical inspiration of the train in America and Cuba, and the history of the movement's artists and styles. The words of the graffiti artists themselves infuse this book with a gritty, often angry flavor that reflects the gulf between established art forms and aerosol art. Graffiti still shares a hazy boundary with vandalism, but several recent works (Art of Getting Over: Graffiti at the Millennium and R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art) have also reevaluated street art in terms of its artistic and societal significance. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Kraig A. Binkowski, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781617036774
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
Publication date:
10/01/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
236
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Ivor L. Miller has published widely in African Studies Review, Third Text: Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art & Culture, Callaloo, Race & Class, and LUCERO: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies. He is also the author of Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba.

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