The “Burning New York” book release party was fun. The couple who made the photo book of New York street art featured a panel of 4 graffiti writers or street artists, two in disguises which reminds everyone that much of the great street art that brings international honor to New York City is illegal. The city is under the misunderstanding that those who volunteer a service to our population by decorating the public visual space should be thrown in jail as if their actions were crimes. I discussed this issue a while back on p0ps blogWho Owns Public Art?, where I pointed to legal precedence that property owners do not have absolute rights over the appearance of their public-facing spaces and the local political process could be strengthened to support a concept of public ownership of public visual space, favoring individually produced art over mass-produced advertising.
So, all that aside, here we were in Nolita, a book store cafe with open windows on the sidewalk 100 people listening to 4 artists respond to questions regarding the artistic aspects of their (currently) illegal art activity - history, styles, methods, influences, aspirations. Although, the book authors questioned the prevailing attitude stemming from the Giuliani mayoral administration that graffiti left viewable promotes an acceptance of criminality in the community, no one proposed using political methods to change governments attitude to better reflect the interests of an art-appreciating community.
What was very cool was on the sidewalk, a crowd of young, ghetto, gangster-styled people talking and joking about art, showing each other their sketch books of designs, practicing their letters. What made it explicitly 21st Century was that very few were smoking cigarettes, no one was smoking pot, no one drinking beer. That they politely stepped aside to allow pedestrians to pass, was very NYC, contrary to how the rest of the world views us.
See the book on Amazon, Burning New York.