If you lived in New York’s upper west side in the late 1960s – early 1970s, this kind of graffiti was common in the subways as an underground art. Graffiti artists used markers to scrawl their name and the street they lived on. It was a “marker” of who they were and their “turf” similar to the WWII bomb maker who left his “mark” on the outside of each bomb casing, “Kilroy was here.”
The name I remember the most riding the subways of New York back then was TAKI 183, a legendary graffiti artist of world-wide acclaim. In 1971, the New York Times wrote an article, “TAKI 183 Spawns Pen Pals,” that ignited the movement in New York City and cast TAKI 183 as the world’s first famous graffiti artist.” TAKI 183 has written the forward to The History of American Graffiti, set to be published in April 2011.
In this recent photo taken in Misurata, Libya, the style is not much different from TAKI 183 and his contemporaries that started to appear in New York subways 45 years ago. The message on the wall in Misurata is clear: to Gaddafi and his regime – “Game over.” To the citizens of Libya – “Freedom” and “Don’t Give Up.” Setting marker to wall, the writer’s words take on a power that goes beyond guns or bombs. It is a power of truth, of will that transcends and transforms and is worthy of our respect.