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Copyright © 1998, 2009 @149st. All rights reserved.

©1998, 2009 @149st Do not republish without permission.

On May 12, 1989 the MTA declared a victory over graffiti. The MTA set in effect a policy of removing all marked subway cars from service. The objective being no graffiti will run. This was the birth of what is known as the Clean Train movement. There are many writers who believe subway painting is the defining act in being a writer. Walls, freights, scraps, and canvas are for fake writers. These writers refuse to give up the battle against the MTA. Even though works do not run or only run for one trip many people still write.
Short list of clean train writers: COPE2, SENTO TFP, POEM, YES2

FREIGHTS-The National Movement*

Hip Hop exploded in popularity the early '80s. Music videos featuring various aspects of NYC street culture proved very appealing. Overnight every American teenager wanted to be a New York City B Boy. MCs, breakers and writers were springing up all over the place. Outside of New York City there aren't many major urban transportation systems, but writers wanted to paint steel and have their name move. With accessibility and minimal security freight trains became a natural target. Currently writers from all over the United States and Canada bomb freight trains. The geographic roots of the freight movement are difficult to pin point but are widely thought of as a West Coast phenomenon. Active NYC based freight writers are CAVS, SEIN 5, SENTO, CAVS, CASE2, ZEPHYR and MONE
*Term coined by ZEPHYR

During the early '80s American writers were touring European art galleries and Hip Hop was gaining international popularity. European youth fell in love with New York City street culture. Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper's book Subway Art and the films Style Wars by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant and Wild Style by Charlie Ahearn became the foundation for European ambition. The NYC culture was being mimicked and expanded upon. Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff's book Spray Can Art documented early movements across the globe. The book proved to be an additional catalyst for the expansion of aerosol art world-wide.

By the late '80s the European movement was long established and was in full force. The second generation Europeans were forging friendships with their American idols. The Europeans thirsted to paint in the birthplace of the art. The Americans hosted "Pilgrimages to Mecca". Many European writers bomb New York so effectively, that people believe they are from New York.
Many New York writers also went to Europe. Some European were so willing to cater to American writers that they would provide airfare, accommodations, and paint. The bragging rights for painting with an American were priceless. For some Americans going to hit trains in Italy or Germany has become just like a trip form Brooklyn to the Bronx.

In the late 1980s the MTA began a massive retirement of its flat cars from all three divisions. These cars were sent to scrap yards in Brooklyn. Despite the fact that these trains were headed for destruction, they attracted many writers. Some hit the scraps because of their passion for steel; others painted just to get a photograph of their name on a subway car, or to relive memories. Painting these cars posed no threat to the MTA, but the Transit Police's Vandal Squad eventually haunted them anyhow in hopes of catching someone on their most wanted list. The Vandal Squad knew that some of the same writers hitting the scraps also painted clean trains. Never the less writers are still attracted to the scraps.

With increased pressure from the MTA bombing trains became more difficult. Writers discovered alternative routes to fame. Though highways lacked the motility of trains they had the advantage of being exposed to hundreds of automobiles every day. From the beginning highway writing has consisted primarily of tags and black and silver throw-ups or straight letters. OE and P13 started hitting NYC highways methodically early on. Other highway kings were COPE 2, PJ, TRAK, MED and FAYDE.

Along with the new school, many old school writers have come out of retirement to do works on walls. Crews like RTW, TDS, TFP and TMB are all doing extensive productions. All five boroughs are active, but the Bronx is once again taking the lead via the detailed murals of crews like, FX, KD and TAT.

Rooftops have also become an attractive target. Particularly on buildings that are visible from elevated subway lines. NATO is a frequent site in Queens as is COPE 2 in The Bronx.

In the early 1980s photographer and artist David Schmidlapp published the first zine on writing called International Graffiti Times for which PHASE 2 was a consistent contributor. Since then with an increased interest in writing in general and the advent of desktop publishing there are dozens upon dozens of publications and the numbers grow daily.

One of the most positive things about these zines is that for the most part writers themselves edit them. Many writers criticize these publications saying that they are illegitimate vehicles to fame, stating " Real Writers bomb trains: not magazines". With or with out critics these zines have become a part of the culture providing another communication venue for a community who has always struggled to communicate.

In the late 1980s NYC writer SAN 2 aka Carl Weston began production on the ground breaking series VideoGraf. It was the first organized video documentation of writing by writers. Shortly after many similar series were produced by others around the world.


Established in 1994 and credited as being the first organized web site focused on the documentation of Writing is Art Crimes. A few short years later there are hundreds of Writing web sites all over the world. These sites range from kids at home who have never been near a train and enjoy the safety of the internet to hard core European bombers to multimedia and graphic design firms established by writers to sites utilizing web technology as an art form.

The web is being utilized in a similar fashion in which the subway system was. People communicating across great boundaries. Bombing Cyberspace can not ever be expected to replace getting your hands dirty, but it has definitely become a facet of the writing culture.

With less of a start up cost than offset printing and computer prices going down the Web will become the most accessible means of communication for the economic group that created the art form called writing.

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Copyright © 1998, 2009 @149st. All rights reserved.

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