Graffiti 365 – book review

I borrowed Jay “J.Son” Edlin Graffiti 365 (Abrams, 2011, New York) from Coburg Library. Graffiti 365 has 365 entries on graffiti in alphabetical order. It is a thick book, like a brick of photographs, art and text.

Another book on street art, it is impossible to keep up with all of them – so why read or review this one? (After all later this month I will review Dean Sunshine’s book Land of Sunshine.) In the foreword by Andrew “Zephyr” Witten” introduces the author Jay “J.Son” Edlin (aka Terror) as a NYC graffiti artist. “Imagine The History of Rock as explained by Jimi Hendrix, if that helps.” Zephyr writes.

And Jay Edlin does write, each entry has a photograph and three or four paragraphs of well-written prose. It is a well-rounded reference book, looking at the whole 360 degrees of the subject. As well as, lot of artists there are entries about collectors like Ivory, documenters like the Wooster Collective and opponents like NYC’s Mayor Ed Koch, Lt. Steve Mona and The Splasher. There are pages on media: fat caps, fire extinguishers and acid etching. Pages on locations: abandoned stations, heavens and Fun Gallery.

But most of the pages are about artists; there are pages on street artists and graffiti writers from all decades from the 70s onwards. There are graffers who specialize in painting trains and street artists doing urban interventions.

As well there is the usual glossary of terms and a solid index, which is almost redundant given the alphabetical structure. If anything wrong with this book it is the classic bias in the book towards NYC (a very understandable bias given the author) but the book does include are artists from around the world from A1 in Iran to Jace on Reunion Island (find that on a map). And there are pages on Australian artists: Dmote, HaHa, Anthony Lister, Merda, Phibs, Rone and Vexta.

NYC managed to save itself as the international art capital with street art and graffiti. In the late 80s and 90s when London and Cologne were fashionable it was looking doubtful if NYC was the international art capital but all along it was working on a comeback. I’m hoping to see it for myself next year.

About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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