AUTOGRAF: New York City's Graffiti Writers

Peter Sutherland, Author, REVS, Text by (Art/Photo Books) . powerHouse $29.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-57687-203-1

Almost every artist's face in this 71/2"×101/4" collection of 96 hot-looking four-color portraits (with a few more in b&w) is obscured in some way, reminding us that while some may see these writers as artists, many others, including the police, perceive them as criminals. It's an apt irony for an art form (one still hotly debated as such) that is all about identity and its "tags," placed in inaccessible locations and under trying circumstances. So when an artist among these leathered and t-shirted urban verbal guerillas here decides to bare his or her face (an act of bravery, or bravado?), it's a shock; each artist is more fully represented by his or her unique "autograf" (or tag) perfectly scrawled in thick glossy marker over each shot. REVS, whose huge white block letters are familiar to most New Yorkers, provides a (nicely reproduced) handwritten text on yellow legal paper, complete with misspellings, underlinings and exclamation points: "We need to be paintin 5, 10, 20 story buildings top to bottom with somethin to say... where none of these people in power... can discount your existence!" This terrific books shows its subjects in full effect (if in full stealth mode) with their canvas—New York's five boroughs—sprawled out beautifully and variously behind them, and their names. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!