The History of American Graffiti Book Signing





Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hole
312 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

Forty years ago, an article in the July 21, 1971 issue of the New York Times ignited the graffiti movement in New York. With its profile on the then 17-year-old Demetrius, a Manhattan teenager who was known locally by his ubiquitous “tag” of TAKI 183, graffiti had officially arrived. 
On the 40th anniversary of this article, July 21, 2011, TAKI 183 will arrive – again – at The Hole gallery in New York City for a special event with Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon, authors of a new book on the history of this colorful and influential art form – THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI, to which TAKI 183 wrote the foreword.Taki, who has kept a very low media profile for decades, will be available for interview in conjunction with this gallery event. We hope you will consider a feature to celebrate the anniversary of the day that the New York Times marked the arrival of a burgeoning art form. In an interview, Taki can share where he is now, and speak to the art form today, which is embraced by popular culture, but still controversial enough that the Brooklyn Museum recently backed out of hosting Art in the Streets, co-curated by HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI author Roger Gastman.

“It’s pretty cool that there’s people out there that say I’m a legend,” writes TAKI 183 in the foreword ofTHE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI. “It’s especially funny when that word gets around to my kids. Isn’t that what we all hope for in some way, to have something we’re known for? I’ll take it, until I get the Nobel Prize or something,” he said.

Gastman and Neelon, who, over the span of four years, interviewed more than five hundred key artists for the making of this definitive book, are respected authorities in the graffiti culture. Gastman, who co-curated the first major U.S. museum exhibition on the history of graffiti and street art at theLos Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, where the Art in the Streets is still presently on display, was a consulting producer on Banksy’s Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop.The first to publish a comprehensive and accessible book that details the full history—from the 1800s to the present day—of American graffiti, the authors have insight into the world that TAKI 183 helped to create.

Jeffrey Deitch, the director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, said of their book: “ ‘Wild Style’ graffiti may be the most influential art movement since pop art. Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon have written the definitive history of the origins and the heritage of the graffiti styles that emerged in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles in the early 1970s and inspired young artists around the world.”

THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI, published by Harper Design in April 2011(hardcover; $40.00), is the definitive story behind the most explosive and influential art form of the last one hundred years. Unprecedented in scope, the book traces the evolution of the movement from its early freight train days to its big-city boom on the streets of New York City and Philadelphia to its modern-day influences.

“Graffiti is a much-maligned and misunderstood social movement, which I am proud to be a part of,” said actor David Arquette. “This book offers the definitive perspective on graffiti – finally, we have a historical textbook for the most colorful art form modern society has known.”

Featuring interviews with more than five hundred key artists and exclusive behind-the-scenes stories gleaned from over four-years’ worth of interviews, THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI unveils the entire scope of American graffiti history, from forgotten street legends to the present-day stars: fromTAKI 183 to IZ THE WIZ to SANE AND SMITH; from Barry “TWIST” McGee to REVOK; and historical figures, including for the first time, the story behind the WWII legend KILROY WAS HERE. Authors Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon provide an insider’s perspective on the most popular trends and styles that have dominated the scene for the last fifty years, revealing the story behind the culture that spawned today’s street artists.

THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI is packed with over one thousand photographs—the majority of which have never before been seen—from more than two hundred photographers, most of whom also created the artwork. The authors have spent the better part of the last four years interviewing key figures in the graffiti world throughout America—from the bedrock cities of New York City,Philadelphia, and Los Angeles to more than twenty metropolitan hotspots, including Chicago, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, and Seattle. Approximately 90 percent of the art in this book has never been published, and was sourced directly from the artists who lived the scene, giving the book a raw street vibe as authentic as the history it documents.

The foreword is by legendary graffiti artist, TAKI 183. Considered one of the founding fathers of the graffiti arts movement, TAKI 183has never before contributed writing to any book or media article on the subject. 2011 marks the fortieth anniversary of the 1971 New York Times article written on TAKI 183, “TAKI 183 Spawns Pen Pals,” that ignited the movement in New York City and cast TAKI 183 as the world’s first famous graffiti artist.

Despite many small niche titles catering to graffiti’s practitioners, there has never been a comprehensive and accessible book that details the full history—from the 1800s to the present day—of American graffiti.THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI is unlike anything ever published before on the subject. It is the category game-changer and the ultimate word on the medium as told from the artists who created it.

Roger Gastman started writing graffiti as a teenager in Bethesda, Maryland, and was able to parlay his love for it into a legitimate career, becoming a trusted mediator between the underground art scenes and mainstream culture. A consulting producer on Banksy’s Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop, Gastman co-curated MoCA’s Art In the Streets exhibition in April 2011, alongside Jeffrey Deitch and Aaron Rose. He founded and published two respected pop-culture magazines—While You Were Sleeping and Swindle (co-publisher)—as well as more than a dozen highly sought-after art books. He is the founder and creative director of R. Rock Enterprises, a multi-platform media agency that specializes in print, art, design, marketing, and brand development, and has nurtured the careers of internationally recognized artists. Gastman is producing two independent documentary films, and speaks at universities and major museums across the country. Gastman currently lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Caleb Neelon is a writer, educator, and prolific graffiti artist who has painted the streets of over twenty countries on five continents. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. Neelon is the co-author of Street WorldGraffiti Brasil, and Caleb Neelon’s Book of Awesome, and he has collaborated on nearly a dozen other books. In the past five years, Caleb’s writing has frequently appeared in PrintJuxtapoz, and Swindle, where he was editor-at-large. Caleb speaks regularly at universities, international conferences, and festivals. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

By Roger Gastman & Caleb Neelon
Harper Design
April 5, 2011
ISBN: 9780061698781