There are a lot of street art books in stores today. And most of them follow a simple formula: Take photos (or more often than not, acquire them for nothing from other photographers), lay them out on a page, mislabel all the photos so that work by Mister MN is said to be by Adam Neate, think up a title, print the book. Some books in this format are great, some are not, but this is what you expect from a street art book. Well The Adventures of Darius and Downey is absolutely nothing like that. Not one bit. For one thing, Adventures is a non-fiction/creative non-fiction book 200-odd pages in length, and instead of just throwing a bunch of photographs together, this book tells a story.
Naturally, Adventures is about the street art duo Darius and Downey (aka Leon Reid IV and Brad Downey), but it’s also about the street art and graffiti scene in the early 2000’s. Nobody else has really had his or her street art career described in this way before. Sure, you can read interviews or watch documentaries and get the gist of how Barry McGee or Faile got to where they are today, but D&D are the only ones so far to have set out the whole story in print, and as pioneers of sculptural street art and non-typographical graffiti, they deserve that privilege.
And while reading Adventures definitely provides insight into D&D’s work, what I found even more interesting was the lifestyle and culture that they were a part of. Swoon wrote the intro to Adventures and is mentioned in the book, D&D ask permission from ESPO to paint over one of his spots, they confront Swatch, graffiti writer and “cataloger” of street art (aka, guy who steals pieces off of walls) and more.
The Adventures of Darius and Downey tells a story of a friendship and collaboration that changed the face of street art and this book should be essential reading for anybody who wants to learn about the history of street art, but it’s also just a great read. Readers won’t want to put this book down. It is a quick, fun read with much to say.
But why am I posting this review now, more than a year after the book was published and months after I read it? Well Brad Downey and Leon Reid IV are at Nuart2009 in Stavanger right now, which is where I am too. More on Nuart2009 on Monday.