Often I find myself asking why certain artists have not been included in a book, but when it comes to Abstract Graffiti by Cedar Lewisohn, the spotlight is not on who should have been showcased but who has been and what they offer.
This insightful, thought provoking, and perhaps most importantly, interesting book, focuses on the increasing abstract nature of both graffiti and street art. Covering topics as diverse as knit graffiti and street training, alongside more conventional sprayology and pop influenced chapters, Abstract Graffiti immerses the reader in a world of vibrant colours, political statements and folk inspired characters.
Beginning with a fantastic introduction and conversation with Patricia Ellis, the book’s main basis is a series of interviews with both established graffiti artists and new practitioners of art based avant-garde practises. Each interview covers a different topic, my personal favourites being with Barbara Kruger, Futura, and the interviews on law with the Honourable Judge Hardy, Sweet Toof and Tek33. Juxtaposed alongside some great photos, the book not only provides an extensive review of graffiti and street art, but raises questions about how you yourself view the highly controversial art forms and their impacts on public space.
For me, the only negative is that despite Cedar stating that he does not aim to outline a new form of art, at times I feel it does portray it as exactly that. However, I do say that with reservation, it’s more of a slight downside rather than any issue or problem. And this negative is completely forgotten when you start reading the final chapter – a conversation with Les Back, a professor of sociology at Goldsmiths in London. Not defined directly as a conclusion, the conversation provides a perfect ending to the book and rightly so. Les’s clear passion for graffiti and street art comes to the fore whilst you read questions and answers on society, race, and London’s over jealous planning authorities. Often these topics are not usually raised, or in fact covered, in the usual run of the mill street art book, but this book is not run of the mill, it’s a fantastically written and completely absorbing.
In short, I think everyone interested in art should pick up a copy and get reading. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and I highly recommend it.
More information can be found here on the Merrell Publishers website.
Photos courtesy of Merrell Publishers. By KR, Cedar Lewisohn, and Escif.