cover image Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York's Urban Underground

Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York's Urban Underground

Gregory Snyder. New York University Press, $24.95 (241pp) ISBN 978-0-8147-4045-3

In his first book, fan and socio-anthropologist Snyder doesn't just celebrate urban street art and its rising stars, but takes a thorough look at its history and future, the language of public art and the idea of the graffiti artist as criminal-including an intriguing challenge to the ""broken windows theory"" cited by law enforcement and NYC government officials as central to their efforts. Along the way he decodes a backdoor in the East Village covered with a dozen different tags-""in the same way that the sedimentary layers of ancient ruins inspire archaeologists to tell tales of past civilizations""-profiles rising and established stars, and takes a raw, detailed tour of the scene with guidance from writers like ESPO, MEK, and AMAZE (their trip through the ""Freedom Tunnel"" from 72nd Street to 125th Street under Riverside Drive is especially exciting). Snyder's ""the kids are alright"" assessment, buttressed by many examples of thrill-seeking taggers finding successful careers in art, design, publishing, and (commissioned) mural-painting, is well-articulated, convincing, and quite possibly reassuring for the urbanites living among (or perhaps raising) today's writers and bombers.