Graffiti and the Archaeology of Contemporary Street Art

This past weekend, as I walked by a building site at the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones, I felt like an archaeologist documenting rare cave drawings. Peeping in, I saw layers of graffiti history being unearthed by the construction crew and shot the above video. If anyone knows the names of these artists, let me know.

All through the 90’s, this was a favorite building of mine because of its gigantic COST REVS murals. The murals, done in 1993, are the ones COST is most proud of (pic above) – they feature Mt. Rushmore-style busts of Andy Warhol, REVS (postered), COST (postered) and  Keith Haring.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the massive Eleven Spring street art show (hosted by the building owner as a last hurrah before he sold the building – to one of the Murdoch sons it turns out!). The show was phenomenal with many of the ’00s era art heavyweights in attendance including Shepard Fairey, Swoon, JR, Faile.

I’ve been a collector and fan of street art for years. While some complain about the commercialization of the art and even its role in gentrification, I believe street art serves many purposes from straight up beautification to fighting crime (LED street art in South Philly) to raising political awareness to being fun for people who don’t know anything about art. And I am grateful that there are more opportunities for artists to make a living through street art both from commercial endeavors and from the collector class. I do not agree that for street art to be legit, it needs to be illegal.

See below for murals in my neighborhood as well as some absolutely stellar pieces from around the globe.

At Bleecker and Bowery, across from the former CBGB. The mural was painted by Solus and John CRASH Matos. It was created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ramones debuting at CBGB.


Pichi & Avo (Spain)

The Spanish design duo meld graffiti and Greco-Roman motifs in “Urbanmythology” The wall is at Houston and the Bowery.


TOMBOBNY (Corner of Elizabeth and Prince)

Bob has painted cityscape murals for the Red Grooms’ ‘Ruckus Manhattan’ show at the Brooklyn Museum. Hugely popular with the selfie crowd.


LED Street Art Lights Up a Dark, Dodgy Alley in Philadelphia

“Electric Street” is a collaboration between mural artist David Guin and lighting designer Drew Billiau.

 Street art murals used to fight crime, increase tourism, drive retail

Street artists all around the planet are finding ways to beautify their urban areas with large-scale works of art that cover the sides of entire buildings. Internationally, places like Berlin, Mexico City and Paris get nods as some of the best cities to see innovative street art.

Jaque Frague

Trained at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Fragua describes himself as a “professional vandal” and is best known for raising awareness with his street art especially in downtown LA and along L.A.’s Skid Row, formerly known as Indian Alley.



Cross-stitch street art adds colorful blooms to Spain’s city streets

Madrid artist Raquel Rodrigo of Arquicostura takes decorative embroidery to the next level with gorgeous floral patterns that blanket forgotten urban spaces with blooms. Her artworks are large scale and make use of fencing materials and thick rope.

Norway Commissions Fleet of Beautiful Street Art Buses

The city of Stavanger, Norway commissioned eight street artists to paint custom designs on their fleet of public buses, over the course of 3 years, creating what they believe to be the largest official art-bus commission in the world. Curated by the Nuart Festival.

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