Taking the train - Joe Austin



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Taking the train - how graffiti art became an urban crisis in New York City
Joe Austin
Paperback / softback
Columbia University Press
UK Publication Date

In the 1960s and early 1970s, young people in New York City radically altered the tradition of writing their initials on neighborhood walls. Influenced by the widespread use of famous names on billboards, in neon, in magazines, newspapers, and typographies from advertising and comics, city youth created a new form of expression built around elaborately designed names and initials displayed on public walls, vehicles, and subways. Critics called it "graffiti," but to the practitioners it was "writing."

Taking the Train traces the history of "writing" in New York City against the backdrop of the struggle that developed between the city and the writers. Austin tracks the ways in which "writing"- a small, seemingly insignificant act of youthful rebellion-assumed crisis-level importance inside the bureaucracy and the public relations of New York City mayoral administrations and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for almost two decades. Taking the Train reveals why a global city short on funds made "wiping out graffiti" an expensive priority while other needs went unfunded. Although the city eventually took back the trains, Austin eloquently shows how and why the culture of "writing" survived to become an international art movement and a vital part of hip-hop culture.

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Joe Austin, assistant professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University, is coeditor of Generations of Youth: Youth and Youth Cultures in the 20th Century.

Austin argues that the graffiti epidemic was really a smokescreen for poor civic management, and that graffiti itself was the inevitable result of a whole outpouring of structural social factors.
New York Times Book Review

Although solidly academic, this book is enlivened by its fascinating topic.

A meticulous history.

Austin's precise, witty, and genial style perfectly meshes with his rigorous research and analysis.... This exemplary study makes important contributions to understanding contemporary art, urban sociology, and the culture wars.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Lets the graf writers talk back to the haters, while offering a nuanced reassessment of New York City's graffiti scene.
Village Voice

Austin does full justice simultaneously to New York as a symbolic, although never more than partially representable, city; to changes in the city's economy which create nationally unusual shifts in the relative distribution of wealth and in the ethnic make-up of poverty...ranges widely and with rich detail, yet always anchored in the central narrative focus.
Urban Studies

Keyword Index
Graffiti - New York (State) - New York.|Street art - New York (State) - New York.|Hip-hop - New York (State) - New York.|Subways - New York (State) - New York.|Urban renewal - New York (State) - New York.|New York (N.Y.) - Social life and customs.
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