Various & Gould. Permanently Improvised

Permanently Improvised. Various & Gould, 2019

The word "improvised" may lead one to believe that street artists create without planning, hoping for a miracle. However, Various & Gould, a Berlin-based street art duo, have a whimsical spirit and embrace unexpected outcomes, but their 15-year body of work is characterized by extensive planning and purposeful consideration. They dedicate themselves to the scientific process of experimentation, discovery, and analysis, placing them in a category of their own among the many artists during this era of personal expression in public spaces.

The book "Permanently Improvised" offers an overview of eight major campaigns created by the duo from the mid-2000s to the late-2010s in various locations such as streets, parks, and hidden doorways. This comprehensive work is accompanied by analytical essays by urban/art intellectuals, activists, and experts, including Jan Kage, Steven P. Harrington, Toby Ashraf, Alison Young, Luis Müller Phillip-Sohn, Ilaria Hoppe, Anne Wizorek, Mohamed Amjahid, and an illuminating interview with the artists and Polina Soloveichik. In situ images are also included, allowing readers to experience the duo's kooky-cryptic inner fantasy world and gain insight into their idiosyncratic approach - and the possibilities of hybrid thought in the future.

Various & Gould is an artistic duo that has been an integral part of Berlin's urban art scene during the first two decades of the century. Their work is characterized by a socially conscious approach that tackles issues such as diversity, migration, technological innovation, gender roles, and the definition of work in an unconventional and playful manner. Their love for paper is evident even when it proves fragile in harsh city conditions. An electrically charged declaration of hope on polluted city walls, their hand-made beacons include multi-colored patchworks of collaged faces, halftone murals painted dot by dot, vivid paper castings of monuments, and large images of smashed smartphones used as intaglio plates.

The first monograph of Various & Gould's work is a medium-sized hardcover book that features instructive and illustrative images of their works placed illegally in the streets, created in the studio, presented in galleries, and, in one case, Papier-mâchéd upon public sculptures of Marx and Engels. The work is delivered with sincere scholarship and humor, even during the process of creation, public interaction, and mid-degradation due to natural elements.

The campaigns on the street are formed with a knowledge of politics, history, and social commentary, providing viewers with a greater appreciation of the tribe-like mentality humans possess just beneath the veneer of civility - a dry timber poised to be sparked into flame. For example, the Wanted Witches campaign placed 13 portraits of modern pioneers in socio-political issues painted with phosphorus and encouraged viewers to light a match on them, taking public interaction beyond the realms with which we are familiar. The carefully planned and executed installation on city streets powerfully elevated the saint-like sacrifice of people who push ahead of us, sometimes burned at the stake as witches - whether literally or perhaps via a hostile media and politicized rhetoric.

At the root of much of V&G’s work is an examination of identity; its malleability, fluidity, and perceived relevance in societal strata. Many projects meditate on our flexible selves, as in Identikit, which interchanges personalities and keywords to present tensions and examine associations; St. Nimmerlein, which mocks the arbitrary power of declaring sainthood with fictional personas who surely don’t deserve it; and Face Time, a Dadaist study that combines the likenesses and features of many into implausible yet familiar glitch-humans. The early campaign Rabotniki mixes and matches bodies, parts, genders, classes, and identities in a handmade heart-conscious way.

Theirs is a unique cut-and-wheat paste approach; an improvisational technique that allows for discovery, insight, and humor. It translates well to their respected contemporary art practice. “Permanently Improvised” is a celebration of V&G’s unique approach to street art and their storied contribution to the Berlin street art scene and beyond.

            Text: Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo    Fotos: Sebastian Kläbsch

Martha Cooper, Ninja K & 1UP Crew. One Week with 1UP

One Week with 1UP. Martha Cooper, Ninja K & 1UP Crew, 2018

One Week with 1UP” is an adrenaline-fueled ride through Berlin's graffiti scene that captures the spirit of rebellion that has been present in this form of art since its inception. The book results from a serendipitous meeting between a veteran photojournalist and ethnographer Martha Cooper and the notorious Berlin-based graffiti crew 1UP. Along with photographer Ninja K, Cooper takes readers on a clandestine path through the streets of Berlin, where the 1UP crew uses various techniques and platforms to paint their way to fame.

This modern pairing captures the unruly spirit of graffiti over the past 50 years, confidently bringing it into the 2010s. The photographer, who has been documenting the scene since the 1970s, follows 1UP, one of the most prominent graffiti crews in Berlin, to capture their process, technique, and final product. Cooper's experience with the rise of graffiti in New York during the '70s and '80s makes her the ideal person to document its current state: She plays the role of a graffiti seer from the past, recognizing the same passion in today's youth using new technology and techniques to get up.

Running across rooftops, rappelling down walls, ducking through fences, spilling down steps - the 1UP crew plans each mission extensively and goes to great lengths to execute them. The book provides a rare look behind the scenes of Berlin graffiti in the 21st century, a city that has embraced the bohemian and rebellious types who have transformed large parts of its cityscape, making it a de facto capital of subculture, especially among the young.

Cooper’s experience as a photojournalist and documentarian gives a view through the lens that is frank and without filter. It keeps the book grounded, not wandering into heroism but capturing the energy and excitement of the 1UP crew's forbidden actions. Even without words, it tells a story through images of dedication, determination, persistence, and bravado.

“Illegal graffiti is still kind of a competition with writers on one side and cops on the other. Writers that lose can go to jail,” write Cooper and Ninja K in the afterword. “Success is measured by getting pieces up on walls or trains. To us, some actions seemed more about the thrills than about painting a dope piece- the higher the danger, the higher the score, with 1UP usually ahead.”

The book perhaps unintentionally prompts significant inquiries about graffiti's impact on art, vandalism, branding, and public and personal space. Along with the more evident and impressive visual results, the shock of some of these excursions highlights the role of graffiti in modern society and its relationship with the city and private/state property. Photos are accompanied by a journal of experiences, opinions, and witty observations. This adventure of cat and mouse with authority is sincere, satirical, and even sadistic in its humor. At times the psychological planning and theorizing reach military realms, and then you remember we’re just talking about painting.

“Let’s go! 10 writers, 3 checkers, 2 videographers, and 2 photographers race down the stairs towards the train as stunned passengers look on.”

Some may see the 1UP crew's unconventional artmaking to cross physical safety and social boundaries, and the book provides a unique glimpse into their mindset; here seen operating under a principle of solidarity, where every member contributes to ensuring the mission's success and everyone's safety. “One United Power stands for unity,” they say in the foreword, “without individual names and, above all, without egotism.” This philosophy reflects the crew's beliefs in collaboration and teamwork, which are uncommon in an art form characterized by individual expression.

“Hanging with the crew gave us an in-depth look at the tools, techniques, motivations, and personalities of today's graffiti writers,” say the photographers. “We felt privileged to be allowed to watch them meticulously prepare before leaving for some of their complicated actions. We often felt we were in a spy movie with burner phones, masks, encrypted messages, and a hidden web of people working together to ensure everyone's safety.”

One Week with 1UP” is a must-read for anyone interested in the present state of graffiti and street art. It provides an extraordinary look into the world of one particularly infamous graffiti crew and documents their actions in stunning detail. It's a book that may leave readers with a newfound appreciation for the art of graffiti and a deeper understanding of the culture that surrounds it.

            Text: Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo     Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch


ICY and SOT. Let Her Be Free

Let Her Be Free. ICY and SOT, 2016

"Let Her Be Free" chronicles the journey of Iranian brothers Icy and Sot as street artists and the evolution of their work over the decade from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. The book showcases the brothers' activism through their art and their efforts to bring attention to many important social and political issues, including human rights, women's political and personal autonomy, environmental justice, migration, gun violence, capitalism, the effects of war, homelessness, police brutality, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, free speech, and child welfare.

Growing up in Tabriz, Iran, Icy and Sot participated as teens in a street culture that encompassed skateboarding and a slowly burgeoning street art scene, perhaps feeding their desire for self-expression and personal activism. They began experimenting with different techniques and styles in places like Tehran, where local artists like A1one, Magoi, CK1, and Bigchiz dominated the street art scene, in turn inspiring others. As news of the emerging growth of street art in the West gained cultural currency on the Internet, the brothers were also influenced by international street artists such as Banksy, whom they looked up to as role models.

Leaving their home country for Brooklyn, New York, they continued to develop their skills and gained recognition as street artists on a wider platform thanks to exhibitions and exposure in the press. Their work became recognizable for its use of stencils often underwritten by solid political messages. Over the next decade, Icy and Sot traveled the world, exhibiting their artworks in countries such as the US, Germany, China, Norway, Italy, and Australia. They collaborated with other artists, climbed walls, hung off ladders, skated through streets, and experimented with different materials and techniques to create their art – increasingly on display at street art festivals and in the gallery setting.

Icy and Sot's work has often been compared to Banksy's, especially regarding their shared use of art as a voice for the voiceless. They use their street art to resist censorship, challenge accepted conventional wisdom, and bring attention to abuses of power with an ability to express complex social and political issues both indirectly and straightforwardly.

The book is filled with over 200 full-color images that document the brothers' art, showcasing their work in Iran and cities worldwide, providing a retrospective of their first-decade evolution as street artists. "Let Her Be Free" is introduced by Jess X Chen and features an afterword by Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington, the founders of Brooklyn Street Art. The book also includes quotes from prominent street artists and contemporaries, including John Fekner, Faith47, Niels “Shoe” Meulman, Hugo Kaagman, and Adam Neate. It is an in-depth look at the brothers' work, which first became recognizable for its stridently activist and human voice on the street, likely inspiring a new generation of artists who want to bring attention to the issues they care about.

            Text: Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo    Fotos: Sebastian Kläbsch


Martha Cooper, Spray Nation. 1980s NYC Graffiti Photographs.

Spray Nation. 1980s NYC Graffiti Photographs. Martha Cooper 2022

A generous collection of newly unearthed photographs documenting New York’s golden graffiti age from one of the celebrated visual documentarians, Spray Nation expands the conversations discussing the so-called ‘birth of graffiti’ for five decades. With hundreds of pages of newly published photographs culled from the archives that first produced her book Subway Art with Henry Chalfant, the book features unseen pictures of tags, throw-ups, whole car pieces, graffiti writer portraits, and even a few celebrity shots from those halcyon days when graffiti was first being embraced by the gallery and nightlife scene in early 1980s New York. Along with graffiti historian Roger Gastman, Martha Cooper dug through her thousands of 35mm Kodachrome slides to reassess her collection of photographs.

Given how influential the graffiti scene became worldwide during the decades after this first explosion on New York’s subway trains, what they uncover here only confirms the foundational practices and styles of those first graffiti writers. These (usually) young aerosol and marker users painted trains illegally and secretly to claim visual territory in an often chaotic, busy city that appeared to overlook them. They sprayed to promote their names, claim territory, put forth new ideas for discussion, and ultimately impress their peers with stunts that proved their athleticism and prowess at evading danger.

“Martha’s photos have backed up graffiti writers’ tall tales more times than I can count,” writes Gastman in his introduction. “They’re like this crazy high school yearbook. As a result, Cooper is who every graffiti writer, fan, collector, and researcher wants to come and see.”

As the title implies, the practice of graffiti writing grew to cities across the country, and these new action shots of walls and painted subway cars have been selected and digitized to show the range of styles that would soon follow. A trained ethnographer and professional news photographer, Cooper again presents a city as it is, without unnecessary flourish or presumptive storytelling.

Testifying to the significance of the evolving graffiti scene and the role of Cooper’s drive to preserve this ephemerous world with a singular vision are essays by Roger Gastman, Steven P. Harrington, Miss Rosen, Jayson Edlin, and Brian Wallis.

“Martha took pictures of painted trains and b-boys because few bothered to at that time. Once people caught on, she considered her task completed,” writes graffiti writer and historian Jayson Edlin in his essay. “Subway graffiti gradually died, street art rising from its ashes. Disinterest, drugs, and AIDS decimated NYC’s cultural apex, its brightest stars perishing before their work hit the seven-figure mark – lives as ephemeral as our pieces on the train.”

            Text: Steven P. Harrington & Jaime Rojo/BrooklynStreetArt.com    Fotos Eveline Wilson


BANKSY IN NEW YORK. Ray Mock. 2019

For 31 days in October of 2013, UK street artist Banksy “gifted” New York City with daily new surprises on the streets in all five boroughs – effectively involving citizens in his self-designed residency. It is traditional for graffiti writers in New York to claim to go “all-city” and author Ray Mock has covered the tags, fill-ins, and pieces by hundreds of writers as a one-man documentarian of graffiti at Carnage NYC publishing. Here he tracks the daily movements of Banksy through the city to document the usual, unusual, and often witty acts of one of the most famous, yet anonymous, street artists and his presumed team of assistants, actors, and performers. Each installation has a story that is social or political, often with a deep sense of critique.

Banksy in New York is well-illustrated with shots of the odd and interesting installations of his “Better Out Than In” show as it was unveiled via social media. He also captures the scenes, sometimes containing mayhem, that popped up around them as word spread on social media that a new Banksy had appeared. For a New Yorker proud of his turf and a wizened observer of the rise in popularity of street art, Mock examines the various installations and looks for a personal firsthand voice to describe the art and the events so the reader may feel like they understand what it was like to be there.

The book captures how the Banksy team, with intention, wit, and flare, sets a new standard in the street art world by creating a direct link between his digital presence and the parallel physical artworks that included a full-city scavenger hunt, puppets, theater, performance, surprises, beef on the street, and a few sidewalk fights. It appears that Mock is surprised and bemused as well after a career of graffiti-chasing.

“I had mostly been shooting graffiti in recent years, preferably grimy tagged up doors, man-size fill-ins, freight trains and illegal pieces in abandoned buildings or along railroad tracks,” he says in the introduction to Banksy in New York. In it, the ‘residency’ is captured briefly but in many ways, it is comprehensive; including details like the defacement of his pieces, their removal, and reactions from building owners, neighbors, Banksy fans and foes alike.

            Text: Steven P. Harrington & Jaime Rojo/BrooklynStreetArt.com   Fotos Eveline Wilson


Henry Chalfant & James Prigoff. SPRAYCAN ART

SPRAYCAN ART. Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff. 1987.

The legendary SUBWAY ART illustrated book by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant was the first to summarise graffiti writing, documenting the initial simple name-writing and the subsequent development of the motifs into masterpieces on the New York subway. Alongside films such as Style Wars, Wild Style! and Beat Street, the book exported the previously local phenomenon and thus gave the starting signal for a global graffiti movement.

SPRAYCAN ART from 1987, published three years later, shows the effects that the graffiti boom had worldwide in the meantime. Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff clearly focus on mostly elaborately designed legal New York wall productions, also by well-known train writers such as LEE, SEEN, T-KID or REVOLT, who did not yet play a major role in SUBWAY ART. In these Hall of Fame pieces, murals and commissioned works, figurative motifs are more in the foreground and the focus is on the high level of craftsmanship that the writers have now achieved.

In addition to the Five Boroughs, the events in American cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles are also highlighted. Although the New York writers were influential in shaping the style of the first graffiti wave, independent styles appeared in London, Amsterdam and Paris just a few years later, especially in Europe. Alongside the lettering, traditional motifs such as comic figures, subway trains or Bodé characters nevertheless dominate most of the images, following the example from overseas.


SPRAYCAN ART not only documents the rapid spread of the writing movement from Berlin to Sydney and Cleveland to Barcelona in the mid-1980s, but also showed the New York founders that their culture was not merely imitated, but adapted, understood and further developed. Two years before graffiti on the subways of the Big Apple was to come to a standstill, the illustrated book presents works on walls as a now almost equivalent form of graffiti.



Text Sascha Blasche Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch


EINE STADT WIRD BUNT. Hamburg Graffiti History

EINE STADT WIRD BUNT Hamburg Graffiti History. 2021

Preparing the graffiti history of a city is a major project. Although the first graffiti in the style of the New York model appeared in many major European cities in the early 1980s, they were only sparsely documented, if at all. The comparatively high cost of analog photography at the time often meant that not even the creators recorded their first attempts. Official publications devoted to the subject are rare, since most outsiders could do little with the images.

It was not until the early 1990s that protagonists began to publish scene magazines, so-called gray literature, from collected and exchanged photos. For the book EINE STADT WIRD BUNT (A CITY BECOMES COLORFUL), which was published in 2021, four of these editors joined forces and traced the first 20 years of the history of graffiti in Hamburg. Since each of them has been active in the urban scene for over 30 years, it was not only possible to gather over 1,300 photographs, some of them exclusive, but also to have contemporary witnesses and experts knowledgeable about the scene contribute texts that place the phenomenon in a larger social, cultural and urban historical context.


The result is a meticulously researched chronicle that sets standards in scope and detail. All relevant places and representatives of the scene are comprehensively presented and also actors without a direct background in writing such as OZ, ERIC or Peter-Ernst Eiffe, as well as political graffiti from the punk era are addressed.


The book also includes various photos of the actors, newspaper articles and concert flyers of the hip hop movement, which was closely linked to graffiti in Europe. While gray literature was mainly published within the scene, EINE STADT WIRD BUNT addresses a broader audience even without much prior knowledge.

Text Sascha Blasche Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch

Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant. SUBWAY ART

SUBWAY ART. Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant. 1984.

Martha Cooper was the first female staff photographer at the New York Post, capturing everyday situations on the streets of the metropolis for the daily newspaper since the mid-1970s. In 1979, while photographing children playing in the Bronx, she noticed a young boy with a sketchbook. It is HE3, a graffiti writer, who willingly lets her photograph him in front of one of his works. When he offers to introduce her to DONDI, a big name in the scene, she gained access to the graffiti world, which is rather closed off to the outside world.

In the months that followed, Cooper obtained an insight into the scene, met countless writers and captured hundreds of the colorfully painted subways on film. This is also how she gets to know Henry Chalfant, who also documents the works of the young artists as an outsider and has the best contacts in the scene. Unlike her colleague, who photographs the spray-painted pieces standing as frontally in relation to them as possible on the station platform, Martha Cooper tries to capture the trains in their urban context. Together they plan to compile the photographs of this unique phenomenon and publish them in a book: ART TRANSIT.

However, since no American publisher was willing to publish the book, it was not until 1982, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, that the two photographers found a publisher, Thames & Hudson, who took on the project. Two years later their work was published as SUBWAY ART and became the first illustrated book dedicated to the painted subways in New York. Together with the films Style Wars (1983), Wild Style! (1983) and Beat Street (1984), the book and thus graffiti reached an international audience for the first time.

Young people all over the world thus begin in the mid-1980s to create made-up names as Pieces after the New York model and to paint them on walls and trains.

SUBWAY ART is not only documentation, but also serves as an instruction and shapes the archetype of a graffiti piece to this day. Martha Cooper's and Henry Chalfant's book is considered a bible for writers worldwide.

Text Sascha Blasche Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch



In spring 1994, the exhibition SPRAY CITY - GRAFFITI IN BERLIN took place within the framework of the "X 94 - Young Art and Culture" festival of the Akademie der Künste. The book of the same name was published by Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag and was the first illustrated book on graffiti in the capital, which also provided background information and insights into the scene.

In the preceding research, the authors Oliva Henkel, Tamara Domentat and René Westhoff (DISZ) were able to immerse themselves in detail in the Berlin graffiti scene. In addition to comprehensive introductions and explanations, a large number of artists have their say in the ten chapters. Big names from the West Berlin scene such as ODEM, BEN, DANE, KAGE, POET, SHEK and SKUME are presented in portraits, as well as, for the first time, writers from East Berlin and some female sprayers from the capital.

SPRAY CITY is not a chronicle, rather the richly illustrated volume shows a cross-section of protagonists and thus the status quo of the young Berlin scene. Furthermore, the New York origins are illuminated, the Berlin Wall and its significance for the scene are described by Michael Nungesser and LOOMIT places the city in an international context. But the tensions between the illegal and legal works are also discussed: representatives of the BVG, the Berlin police and the railway police give their views, and topics such as gang culture, criminal consequences and violence complement the content.

The book, which was published in 1994, was an important stimulus for the graffiti scene in Germany as a whole. For the first time, it was possible to buy a book in bookstores nationwide that showed independent manifestations of the American phenomenon and authentically portrayed graffiti in a way that was comprehensible even to outsiders. The success of SPRAY CITY was followed by 13 more volumes in the now legendary GRAFFITI ART series published by Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf.

Text Sascha Blasche      Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch

Gusmano Cesaretti. STREET WRITERS. A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti.

STREET WRITERS. A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti. Gusmano Cesaretti. 1975.

The roots of the global graffiti movement lie in New York in the late 1960s. Over the years, the simple lettering first developed into simple, quick pieces and, by the early 1980s at the latest, into elaborate, mostly colorful masterpieces on the trains of the New York Subway. But early on, similar forms of namewriting also appeared in other regions of America.

Along with Philadelphia, for example, Los Angeles also looks back on an independent culture of writing names in public spaces. Thus, as early as 1975, photographer Gusmano Cesaretti published STREET WRITERS - A Guided Tour of Chicano Graffiti, a documentary-style booklet that paid attention to the regional phenomenon in L.A., capturing the cryptic letters and numbers in numerous black-and-white photographs.

The images were taken on a tour of Los Angeles, which Cesaretti undertook with Charles "Chaz" Bojórquez. "Chaz" was already active in the streets of the city since 1969 as a plaquito / writer and gradually enlightened the photographer about the meaning, origins and peculiarities of the so-called Cholo style. The style borrows calligraphic elements from Gothic writing and the mostly monochrome lettering are individual names or gang names, often associated with the street number, similar to New York Writing. The territorial aspect is prominent in Chicano graffiti and the names were originally applied with a brush, but then increasingly with spray can and marker.

In addition to introductory texts, the photo book includes various regional chapters, rough details about the location of the photographs, the creators, and the significance of their signatures. The form of namewriting, which originated independently of New York Graffiti, is reminiscent of the Pixação from São Paulo and still characterizes the cityscape and the graffiti style of the city after more than 40 years.

Text Sascha Blasche Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch

Craig Castleman. Getting Up. Subway Graffiti in New York

Getting Up. Subway Graffiti in New York - Craig Castleman, 1982

While teaching at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan in the late 1970s, Craig Castleman helped his students produce a booklet (NASTY STUFF) on their favourite subject: graffiti on the New York subway. Inspired by the work on this topic, which was new to him, Castleman spent the following years investigating the phenomenon more closely.

The result is his 1982 dissertation "Getting Up. Subway Graffiti in New York.".

Along with Andrea Nelli's "Graffiti a New York", this volume is one of the first ever scholarly publications on the subject. In nine comprehensive chapters, Castleman provides detailed insights into the history, motivations, experiences and approaches of New York's sprayers. In this way, he illuminates the system in which the writers move, which is often difficult for outsiders to comprehend. Not only are the various forms of graffiti analysed, but the hierarchies, rules and behaviour within the scene are also explained.

The antagonists, such as the MTA (Metro Transit Authority), police and politics, and their various approaches and projects for containment, are also found in Getting Up. In addition, Castleman introduces organisations such as NOGA (Nation of Graffiti Artists) and UGA (United Graffiti Artists), which tried to introduce writers to the art market with canvas works and gallery shows.

While in particular the European research literature on graffiti over- and misinterprets the phenomenon as a rebellious uprising of economically, socially and politically marginalised youth, Getting Up is considered a universally valid standard work on the subject even today due to its purely descriptive and analytical description of writing.

While the phenomenon gets romanticized particularly in European research by over- and misinterpreting graffiti as a rebellious uprising of economically, socially and politically marginalised youth, Getting Up is considered a universally valid standard work on the subject even today due to its purely descriptive and analytical description of writing.

            Text Sascha Blasche  Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch

Boulevard – On Trespassing and Culture No. 2 – INSTITUTION

Boulevard – On Trespassing and Culture   


Parallel to the art world's growing interest in graffiti, street art, and urban art, scholarly research on these fields has also increased steadily in recent years. While standard works can be found in specialized libraries, more in-depth texts and primary sources are often lacking for extensive research. These include rare exhibition catalogs, small editions of gray literature such as illustrated books and scene magazines, but also texts whose relevance has changed in the rapid development of the aforementioned subject areas.

The editors of "Boulevard" have addressed this issue for the first time in 2019 (No. 1 - CLASSICS). The magazine, which comes in the classic format of a daily newspaper, is divided into three chapters each: TALK, REPRINT and CASES. While the last section shows selected photo series, the second part consists of scientific texts that have already been published elsewhere, translated into English and often supplemented by a commentary by the authors. The TALK part functions as a cultural journal that refers to current events, publications, exhibitions and projects, but also includes interviews.

In the current issue (No. 2 - INSTITUTION) Katia Hermann and Pietro Rivasi discuss the challenges and possibilities of exhibitions on graffiti.

In addition to Ben Brohanszki and the Graffitimuseum, Jasper van Es and Good Guy Boris, who curated the groundbreaking #VIRALVANDALS exhibition in Eindhoven in 2017, also have their say. Newly published in the REPRINT section are texts by Lene ter Haar, Harald Hinz, Orestis Pangalos, Patrick Hagopian as well as Bernd Dollinger and Bettina Hünersdorf. CASES features photo series by Dunja Janković, Bill Daniel, Emanuel Roth and images by the Hamburg-based train writer RAGE.

            Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

KUNSTFORUM International Vol. 260, May-June 2019

KUNSTFORUM International Vol. 260, May-June 2019

In June 1982, KUNSTFORUM International devoted an entire volume to the subject of graffiti (vol. 50 "Wilde Bilder. Graffiti und Wandbilder"). At the time, the vague term encompassed both ancient commemorative writings, political murals, facade art, ironic slogans, and several other forms of partly illegal interventions in urban space. Classic graffiti writing, which has characterized the New York cityscape for a decade and has existed in similar forms in Philadelphia and Los Angeles since the 1960s, is mentioned rather casually with three photos and half a page of text. In the months that followed, however, Writing would be carried into Western societies worldwide through films and books and mature into a global movement.

After 37 years, graffiti is once again the overarching theme of the art magazine in May 2019.

But this time, what is meant by the title is more clearly defined: writing based on the New York model and, if applicable, art that emerges from it. Thus Writing is not lexically explained and a glossary of scene terms enclosed, but Larissa Kikol gathers big and small names of the scene and gives a status quo of graffiti in Central Europe.

From an art historical perspective, selected actors are introduced and their work is analyzed and classified. These include CLINT176 (Berlin), SAEIO (Paris), SUSIE (Berlin) and HAMS (Marseille). However, the cities of Berlin as a stylistic melting pot of the contemporary scene and Munich as a comprehensively documented example of early European work in the early 1980s are also portrayed.

A more comprehensive definition of the concept of graffiti (urban marketing and urban art) is covered in the text by Robert Kaltenhäuser and Georg Barringhaus.

In addition, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, RAP, 1UP and graffiti lawyer Dr. Patrick Gau, as well as MOSES & TAPS™ provide insight into their work in extensive interviews.

            Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche


URBAN ART PHOTOGRAPHY - Jürgen Große, 2008

Today, Berlin is considered a world metropolis for graffiti, street art and urban art. While the late 1980s saw the end of the golden era in the graffiti mecca of New York, the fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in a new era in Europe. Less than ten years after motifs modeled primarily on those from overseas began to dominate the cityscape in Berlin, a new, related phenomenon began to take root. Witness and observer of the emerging Urban Art is Jürgen Große, who at that time has already been photographing art in public space for two decades. In addition to adbusting, sculptural works and often randomly appearing curiosities, he also documents the use of new stylistic tools such as stencils, stickers, posters and, above all, paint. These tools alter the formal language of the paintings, allowing them to be painted in previously inaccessible places and sometimes on a monumental scale.

Abb. 211-1 – 212-2 Idee Orion

The playing field of actors such as NOMAD, SWOON, BANKSY or Brad Downey are primarily the eastern districts of the capital, which offer more publicly accessible open spaces. But Große also explores construction sites, vacant buildings, "hidden places" and backyards, which are increasingly equal canvases for the work of AKIM, 6, SPAIR, ZAST, KRIPOE, LOST SOUL and IDEE. Meticulous location, month and year are added to each shot, so that even today a before and after comparison is possible.

Abb. 357 – 364 Zast, Atari, Bus126, Akim, Zast

Urban Art Photography is a unique documentation that accompanies the beginnings of an art form that is shaping the face of the city today as never before. Jürgen Große's imagery not only captures the works, but also always depicts the context of the urban space. This contemporary testimony allows a view of a Berlin of the 2000s that, like most of the works, no longer exists today.

            Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

AMSTERDAM ON TOUR. The early signs of Dutch graffiti.

AMSTERDAM ON TOUR. The early signs of Dutch graffiti. 2019.

When as a result of films and books such as „Subway Art“, „Wild Style!“ and „Style Wars“ the New York tradition of graffiti writing attracted worldwide attention and, above all, imitators in the early 1980s, so-called namewriting was a completely new phenomenon in many places.

Amsterdam, however, plays a special role in Europe in this respect. Although slogans, phrases and criticism on current political issues such as the expansion of the metro or urban housing policy can also be found here in the seventies, the emergence of the punk movement changed the intention "from activism to egoism". Since the illegally affixed slogans can often be seen in the city for years, especially punk bands and their fans took advantage of this to advertise with their names in the cityscape.

In AMSTERDAM ON TOUR, Writer AGAIN traces how the writing of individual pseudonyms by a new generation emerged from this movement. For already in 1979, years before graffiti writing comes to Europe from America, Amsterdam is covered with the signatures of THE DUMB, KODIAK STONE, VENDEX or N-POWER.

Parallel to the development of tags into sometimes elaborate calligraphic lettering, often combined with figurative elements, poster and stencil artists like Hugo Kaagman and Diano Ozon also anticipate the visual language and style of street art.

When, from 1983, the Yaki Kornblit Gallery not only exhibited New York graffiti, but also invited writers such as SEEN, FUTURA, BLADE and ZEPHYR, they left their mark on the city and influenced the already existing scene. Locals like SHOE, DELTA and JEZIS adapted the form of the Pieces and decisively shaped the style of the emerging graffiti scene in Central Europe with their styles since the mid-1980s.

The book documents the transition of two independent styles of namewriting in Amsterdam in the eighties with unique historical photos and interviews.

             Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

Ralf Gründer. Verboten: Berliner Mauerkunst

 Verboten: Berliner Mauerkunst - Ralf Gründer, 2007

The Berlin Wall, erected by the GDR on August 13, 1961, separated today's capital Berlin into East and West for almost 30 years. From 1975 until November 9, 1989, the so-called "anti-fascist protective wall" consisted of the 3.60m high and 1.20m wide wall segments that are still common today and were bordered by a concrete tube at the top.

Although the Wall stood on GDR soil and thus some meters on the west side were officially East territory, the border was controlled by soldiers only on the east side. This fact encouraged some political activists in the first years to write their comments, accusations and messages with spray can and brush on the wall from the west. Tourists also took advantage of the open spaces and applied commemorative graffiti and political slogans. Since this was not punished from the west side and not painted over from the east side, the border wall around 1980 showed a patchwork of individual traces of its visitors, who mainly left slogan graffiti on it.

Ralf Gründer's "Berliner Mauerkunst" focuses on the following years, in which local and international artists such as Christophe Bouchet, Theirry Noir, Indiano, Kiddy Citny, Richard Hambleton, and Keith Haring discovered the wall as their canvas. Unlike many photo volumes on the Berlin Wall, the book does not present the images of one photographer. Instead, Gründer compiles archives of diverse Wall photographers of the 1980s, classifies them, and provides comprehensive background information on the works. The author also researched archival material from action artists, musicians, and filmmakers in order to trace in as much detail as possible which Wall art was created where and when on the West Side. In terms of scope, completeness, and information density, the book is probably the most comprehensive work on art on the Berlin Wall.

You can find more literature on the Berlin Wall in our catalog.

             Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche

Andrea Nelli. Graffiti A New York

GRAFFITI A NEW YORK - Andrea Nelli, 2012

The origin for the worldwide graffiti, street art and urban art movement lies in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. What started locally as simple name-dropping in the streets and backyards of the boroughs evolved into elaborate typefaces that rolled all over the city on Subway trains within a few years.

At its peak in the mid-1980s, the phenomenon went around the world as „Subway Art“, thanks to the book by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. It found imitators globally and academia belatedly began to take an interest in the form of expression.. The standard work "Getting Up" by Craig Castleman, which was not published until 1982, has always been considered the first scientific examination of the subject.

But as early as 1978, Andrea Nelli published "Graffiti a New York," an extensive essay, after he had already been confronted with the name prints in the cityscape six years earlier during his first trip to the city. For his research he interviews actors, gallery owners, collects newspaper reports and analyzes the rapidly changing movement. Due to the bankruptcy of the publishing house only a few weeks after the publication of his dissertation in 1978, the work receives little attention from researchers and only becomes a coveted collector's item in scene circles.

But forty years after Nelli's first visit to New York, "Graffiti a New York" was rediscovered, translated into English, and reissued in 2012 by the Italian publisher Wholetrain Press. In addition to the original text, there are over 100 historical photographs by the author, showing arguably the most important phase of the evolution towards classic graffiti. Both the original and the new edition are part of the holdings of the Martha Cooper Library.

Fotos: Steffen Köhler     Text: Sascha Blasche