Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Birthday Book of the Day: Norman Mailer's classic essay on New York graffiti, 1st ed.

mailer graffiti.jpg

Today’s would have been Norman Mailer’s 94th birthday. Lindsay Thompson remembers the controversial author in a Facebook Live video here, and reads a bit from our birthday book:

Kurlansky, Mervyn, and Naar, Jon, The Faith of Graffiti (Alskog Books/Praeger Publishers, 1st ed., 1st printing, 1974). ISBN 0-275-71610-0. Paperback, folio sized collection of photos of New York’s early 1970s graffiti explosion. Novelist Norman Mailer explains The Meaning of It All in a sixteen-page essay mid-book (bracketed by two forty-page full photos), first published in Esquire in 1974. Overaize 13" x 10"Good condition, unpaginated. Rare pop culture record. HBB price: $40 obo.

A 2014 New York museum show recalled graffiti’s journey from public nuisance to art form:


‘The centerpiece of “The Faith in Graffiti” is a meandering essay by Norman Mailer. Assuming the identity of “A-1,” Mailer the journalist went into the ghetto to get down with artists like JUNIOR 161, who told him: “You want to get your name in a place where people don’t know how you could do it, how you could get up there.” Mailer the art historian compared CAY 161 and TAKI 183 to Giotto and Michelangelo, to de Kooning and Rauschenberg. He portrayed graffiti artists as part noble savages, part urban gardeners who made rain forests of lettering grow over the monotonous iron-gray brick, concrete and asphalt prisons they were forced to inhabit.

‘Mailer the celebrity chronicled his visit to otherwise-liberal Mayor John Lindsay (whose job he coveted) and tried to get him to reveal why he allowed so much ugly architecture that deserved to be painted over to proliferate during his tenure and why he called the graffiti writers “insecure cowards.” Before he showed Mailer the door, Lindsay explained how much money and effort the city spent on clean, new, air-conditioned subway cars, only to see them defaced.

‘A whole industry grew up around fencing train yards and other potential sites, developing graffiti-proof silicon coatings, criminalizing the purchase of spray paint, and arresting the artists and making them scrub off each others’ work. At the same time, the work of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, was discovered by the media and art magazines, coveted by private collectors, and featured in museum and gallery exhibitions.

‘Flash-forward 40 years. “City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection,” opened at the Museum of the City of New York on February 4, 2014. In the three weeks since then—even with New York’s worst winter weather in recent history making transportation difficult—thousands of visitors have come to see (and be photographed with) 150 works of 1970s and ’80s graffiti art, including sketchbooks and mixed-media works on canvas, cardboard, paper, and plywood.

‘According to Sean Corcoran, the museum’s curator of prints and photographs, the exhibit is so popular because “people can identity and relate. They feel a bit of ownership. Especially people who grew up with ’80s music, fashion and films like Style Wars.”’

Henry Bemis Books is one man’s attempt to bring more diversity and quality to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg market of devoted readers starved for choices. Our website is at www.henrybemisbookseller.blogspot.com.  Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory; for pricing on this or others items, kindly private message us. Shipping is always free; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like. #Norman Mailer #Graffiti #RareBooks #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte


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