Occupy Subway Art

Some great artwork has come out of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Check out some of the subway art that we’ve spotted underground!


Poster Boy's latest.
Handmade sticker on the F line.
BAMN and CASH4 hit a huge wall off the J train.
Truth in advertising.


Illustration by Subway Art Blog veteran Jeanne Verdoux

Have you spotted some Occupy Wall Street subway art? Please share!

Underbelly Project Gets a Book

If  you are not yet familiar with the underground subway art “Underbelly Project,” you should check out this New York Times article.

If you are familiar with the project (and you are a big fan like myself) you will be excited to hear that the organizers, Workhorse and PAC, are putting together a book.

Since the existence of the project had been announced publicly in the Times article, the NYPD has arrested people who tried to find the entrance to the abandoned station and those who made it inside have reported that the work had been defaced. Luckily, the art was well-documented before the project was publicized and the organizers have an extensive collection of photos and videos.

Over 100 street artists from around the world were involved; several of them Subway Art Blog veterans, including: Posterchild, Jason Eppink and CASH4.

We Own the Night: The Art of the Underbelly Project is expected to be 240 pages and is set for release on February 7th, 2012.

Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.com.

Response to The New York Times: Cities Report Surge in Graffiti

The New York Times recently published an article about an upsurge in graffiti in cities across the country. I have kept a close eye on the graffiti of the J train for the past few years and I agree that the amount of graffiti in my area has increased, but I can’t disagree more with them about the cause of this increase.

The officials interviewed in the piece come to the conclusion that the cause for the upsurge is “a tough economy.” As someone who has had a window into the secret world of graffiti for a good while, I feel I am coming from a strong position to be making these observations. Contrary to the beliefs of the interviewees, I believe that it has little to do with the economy and everything to do with the internet and the wider acceptance of graffiti as an art form.

Is this graffiti's place in art history?

Graffiti exploded in New York in the early 1970s. Kids from every race and economic background were writing their names on walls and subway cars across the entire city. The vast majority of the early graffiti writers ranged in age from about twelve to eighteen; that would put them in their mid 50s today. Like Rock & Roll before it, graffiti has become more widely accepted by society because the generation that grew up with it is now adult. Even though not all of them are still bombing, their kids are growing up in households that are more accepting of this phenomenon.

Even art institutions are starting accept graffiti onto their walls. The recent “Art in the Streets” exhibition at MOCA is the first of its kind—a major museum survey of graffiti and street art. This is a huge jump towards accepting graffiti into the history books as a modern art movement and yet another reason graffiti is on the rise.

Another contributing factor to this upsurge is the Internet. The widening availability and affordability of digital cameras hasn’t hurt either. Don’t get me wrong: graffiti has been fairly well-documented since the early days, but never has it been so public or available. When I first started paying attention to graffiti, I was barely able to understand any of it and very few names stuck with me. This was the case only until I started browsing through Luna Park’s flickr photostream and eventually posting my own photos for the community to educate me on. With the growing popularity of photography sites like flickr, an extremely transient art form has suddenly become more permanent. Graffiti pieces can now live on long after they get buffed or dissed or weathered.

Take subway artist Jilly Ballistic for example. She has said her stickers could last as little as a couple hours and as much as a few days if she is lucky. What’s the point? Ballistic posts all her work to flickr where it can live long after it gets torn down by the MTA. Jilly is a new breed of artist that relies on the internet to get her work out there.

The same applies for graffiti writers as well. While many of them do not post photos to flickr themselves, they do pay attention to the site to look at photos of their work posted by other users. This gives writers new incentives that didn’t exist a short time ago.

I am convinced that graffiti’s association with economic downturn can be added to the long list of stereotypes about this art form. There is more at work here than just high unemployment and slashed maintenance budgets. If The Times widened its scope, this article might have been very different. it would be plain to see that graffiti is on the rise because Graffiti is on the rise.


To demonstrate how much graffiti has popped up over the past several months, lets look at this one wall that is viewable from the J train:

The first time I flicked the wall in December 2010, SHIFT and EGGYOLK had throw-ups on it.


By the end of December, I was surprised when OVERUNDER and CASH4 roller pieces appeared on the top of the wall.


A couple months later, VIL and BAK had dissed the SHIFT piece—these guys have serious beef.


The wall had stayed the same until June of this year when BOWS and RAST painted this huge, colorful mural.


Most recently, SYKE has covered up RAST. It’s unclear if this was due to beef between the writers. My guess is no, because SYKE got a shout on the top left of the mural.

All photos by Jowy, through the windows of the JMZ.