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New graffiti book sheds light on underground art

Gregory J. Snyder has penned Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag In New York’s Urban Underground, a rare critical work examining New York’s underground graffiti culture.


Graffiti Lives treats the much maligned art form and the urban youth who make it with respect. Snyder argues that although spray painting images on public property is illegal, it’s hardly a gateway to a life of criminal activity. In many cases, young graffiti artists grow up to find work in the art and design world. Many artists featured in the book have gone on to international acclaim with gallery shows all over the world.

Remember Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat? Their early “pieces” appeared on buildings and subway cars. Haring spoke eloquently of his attraction to graffiti:

I arrived in New York at a time when the most beautiful paintings being shown in the city were on wheels – on trains – paintings that traveled to you instead of vice versa. I was immediately attracted to the subway graffiti on several levels: the obvious mastery of drawing and color, the scale, the pop imagery, the commitment to drawing worthy of risk and the direct relationship between artist and audience


I still get excited when I see graffiti. Here in D.C. I see some really vivid and imaginative work while I ride on the Red Line through the city’s northeast side. You never know, I could be looking at tomorrow’s Picasso.

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