Studio 54, CBGB, seedy 42nd street, burned down buildings, disco, punk, Andy Warhol and the emergence of hip-hop all characterize New York’s past. The city’s gritty past has always fascinated. My mom told me stories of visiting the city in the 70’s.
She told me of seeing freaky people on the subway, burnt cars lining the streets of the South Bronx and the smell of garbage rotting. Instead of turning me off from New York, she managed to develop my fascination with the city.
The New York, I called home was very different from the decadent decay of the 70’s. Cupcake shops, a slew of Marc Jacobs shops and family friendly Times Square were more of a main stay. Therefore, I always looked for New York’s edge. One ghost of Manhattan past, which is still around is graffiti art.
When I walk anywhere from Nolita to the East Village, I keep my eyes open to graffiti. Nowadays, there’s less edgy graffiti. There is almost mural art, which randomly shows up in buildings from the Bowery to Layfette Street. It marks today’s interpretation of graffiti art.
Authentic graffiti art often shows up in the doors of tenement buildings in the Lower East Side. I never really understand the writing, but the flamboyant letter fonts and sketching represent urban edge in the midst of gentrification. The most fun and unexpected place to see graffiti art is in bathrooms.
At bars and coffee shops, which line Ludlow Street, the bathrooms feature art on the walls. It is both an obscenity for the eyes (i.e. lots of penis drawings) and magical art. I sometimes, take longer in the bathroom just to observe art on the wall. It’s my own private modern art museum without the high-ticket prices.
New York has less graffiti these days. Recently, the New Museum had a display of an apartment door covered in art by the most famous street artist, Keith Haring. It displayed a time when the city was low on cash, but rich in experimental art. However, mainstream New York gets, it still lures the creative types. Although gentrification maybe here to stay, the city still is an exciting place to live. It also retains an appreciation for thinking outside the box.