Funding Friday: Subway Art

When I got to NYC in the early 80s the subway cars were like moving paintings with graffiti all over the cars. Going down into the subway station was like going to an art show.

This retrospective of Henry Chalfant’s photography of that era at the Bronx Museum captures that period so well and I helped support it today.


Comments (Archived):

  1. kenberger

    “Going down into the subway station was like going to an art show.”I felt that way too, growing up in the area… and also saw it as a symbol of tolerated anarchy and defiance… “tolerated” meaning there was a universally-held feeling that the city was crime-ridden and not much could be done about it.As an 80’s teenager, I saw it also as a symbol of extreme cool and edginess– which went away with its eradication in Giuliani’s years, along with a huge increase in safety and gentrification. A tradeoff, to be sure.

    1. Mike

      I grew up in the NY metro area around that time as well. Not sure everyone saw grafitti as art at the time, but some of it was pretty impressive.

      1. kenberger

        yes – most of my relatives saw it as a nasty eyesore. Which of course validated MY liking it.

      2. jason wright

        Revisionism is everywhere.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I used to skip school in the early 80’s and take Metro North into the city from Connecticut to check out the scene. The graffitti was amazing!

  2. awaldstein

    I love the story of how Haring and friends would meet at a bar in the East Village, dole out the cans of spray paint amongst the artists, then head out on the subways to create until they were either arrested or ran out of paint.

  3. jason wright

    The ultimate public space. I guess it’s now devoid of expression. Clean and sterile.Ever been bugged or mugged on the NYC subway?

    1. awaldstein

      You are not familiar with NY subways it seems.A major mess–absolutely!Sterile–never. Street art or not.

      1. Lawrence Brass

        Boeing 787, JFK Terminal 8, Airtrain to Jamaica Station, Grand Central… ahhh New York!I *LOVE* that mess!

      2. jason wright

        I am not familiar.Is it safe?

        1. awaldstein

          You owe yourself a trip then.I remember that as a little kid riding the trains with my grandfather when I used to go with him to work in the garment district some days, he would lecture me in Yiddish the stops that were safe to get off at. Back then there was some truth to that.Today there is literally no where in Manhattan (or Brooklyn for that matter) on trains or off, that causes any concern at any time day or night for anyone.

          1. jason wright

            Perhaps, after Brexit is done and dusted.The Bronx has always been name in England associated with the darker side of NYC. A place to avoid. Is it so?

          2. awaldstein

            “The UK thinks the Bronx is seedy,”Even I who always wants to tell a NY story and whose family migration was from Hester St to the South and West Bronx where I was born can’t respond to this ;)I suggest Wikipedia if interested honestly.

    2. Richard

      sterile ? If you can’t feel the energy of NYCs subway, check yourself into rehab. The stainless steel cars, steel beams and its 100 year history make it as exhilarating anything on the east coast. If you want to see what sterile looks like checked out the DC metro.

      1. jason wright

        In London it always feels like a tense atmosphere on the tube. People don’t talk. I think that’s an English thing.Subway systems are never finished, even after 100 years. Crossrail speaks to that.

    3. awaldstein

      If you care to understand why NYers might churl at the world sterile or just why this one NYer so loves this place through a lifetime of changes, this might help.

  4. Pierandrea

    Love graffiti Art in NYC!The home of hip hop movement

  5. pointsnfigures

    I remember the opening scenes of the tv show Welcome Back Kotter, showed those. Wondered why Chicago didn’t have them. There is a park in Austin, TX that is full of graffiti.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Maybe due to the trains being elevated in Chicago and the train yard far away from neighborhoods where people would get access – ?

      1. pointsnfigures

        Ha. Or maybe it’s because the spray paint has been under lock and key in a lot of stores!

  6. DJL

    Very cool. Graffiti artists are helping to renovate and add splash to downtown areas trying to recover.

  7. Richard

    This reminds me of perhaps your most ridiculous post when to show support for graffiti on public walls and even privately owned buildings – in which the comments section set you back for months.Put it on canvas – now it’s art.

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Love it. Our mutual friend Ana M has graffiti from all over the world on her Instagram.Good graffiti is like the perfect gift, given without any expectation of anything whatsoever in return.

    1. Peter J. Mills

      Oh crap (with respect). The artists gain exposure and kudos.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Your comment doesn’t refute mine, if that’s what the “Oh crap” was intended to signal.

        1. Peter J. Mills

          No, it signalled exasperation. The refutation was in the second sentence. Would you like to address that?

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen


  9. kenberger

    Store in Berlin that actually specializes in spray paints for graffiti purposes. https://uploads.disquscdn.c