My Thoughts on Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore by Freddy Alva (2017)

It’s really strange when you literally lived through an entire period of a music scene and still missed so much. I have know Freddy Alva since 1988 or so (meeting him where else but at CBGB’s). Since he pretty much grew up in NYC, he was very close to the goings on of the ever growing graffiti culture that the city bred like weeds in a lawn. I do remember him showing me these “black books” of his, small books where graffiti writers would do a piece in them and it became a collection of unique pieces of art. While I was always interested in it, I never paid too much attention at the time. Maybe because where we all hung out, graffiti of all types was everywhere. It was “normal”. It was on every wall, street, cars, trucks, etc… and of course the subways which I was fortunate enough to see before the big clean up in the late 1980’s. Freddy was more into it than I at the time and lucky for us, he put together a tome that collects the art and people associated with the New York City Hardcore scene were we apart of and the graffiti that came with it.

The book covers the years of 1980-1995 and all the people involved. It’s told through interviews and remembrances, graffiti crews that were around and of course the images of the work. It is interesting to hear some of the people I knew back then, talk about graffiti and the influence if had on their lives. Back then, we really only talked music, so so much of this was new to me. The most important thing here is the art. If you have a huge collection of street art, graffiti and graffiti history books like I do, rest assured, Urban Styles has images that have not been published elsewhere. Strangely enough, I was at like every show during this time period and was handed flyers on the regular. This book has flyer art that I have never seen before. I was actually taken aback at points reading this book because of that fact. It just goes to show that Freddy was very thorough while researching and putting this thing together.

Graffiti has a long history and what Urban Styles covers is just a small part of it. If this book didn’t exist, sadly this crucial part of the whole picture would be lost to time. From what I understand, the book is close to sold out. I really hope the publishers decide to reprint it. Anyone who is a fan of this style of art really needs to add this to your book collection, one of the best books on the subject. Period.

https://www.amazon.com/Urban-Styles-Graffiti-York-Hardcore/dp/099134474X

Urban Styles Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/Urban-Styles-Graffiti-In-New-York-Hardcore-1644635112469700

Interview with Freddy Alva on Urban Styles

http://www.soundrenaissance.net/freddy-alva-urban-styles/

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A look at Cultographies: Ms. 45 by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (2017)

I “met” Alexandra through her writing a couple of year back when I read one of her previous books, Rape Revenge Films: A Critical Study. To me, just that title alone is a home run but when I was about half way through I knew I was reading words from my “new” favorite film writer. While the book has that scholarly air about it, Alexandra shows she is a down to earth film fan first and writes so that dumb shulbs like me can understand. I found out about a couple of films she wrote about in a positive fashion and picked them up.

I later learned from her at the time, that she was working on two future books, both single film specific. One was about Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and the next, the one I was most interested in, Abel Ferrara’s 1981 Classic Ms. 45. Little that I knew it was going to be a bit for it to be released. The countdown began at that moment…

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^ Contents page…

Last week, the book arrived in my mailbox and I fast tracked it to the top of the pile. I was first surprised at the small size of the book and then realized it was perfect. Sized like a classic paperback you would find on the racks of seedy magazine shops (like Seven Star News in the city of Linden, New Jersey where I grew up), the subject material fits it like a glove. In a historical fashion, Alexandra breaks down the making/creation of the film, from it’s beginnings to the finished product hitting the screens.

She is a researcher who likes details and doesn’t skimp on them. While Alexandra doesn’t have a direct interview with any of the particulars, there are many referenced quotes from all who were involved with the proceedings. There is a big focus on Zoe Lund, from the acting in Ms. 45, her writings & collaborations with Abel on other productions, such as Bad Lieutenant (1992). Small details do not get unnoticed, it seems for one big scene in the film, Ferrara hired for day work, people hanging out in the Revolutionary Communist Party Bookstore on 18th Street/NYC, as his studios were upstairs. Weird, I was at that place a few times in the 80’s, who knew such greatness was up above! There is also words written about the recent “uncut” DVD release by Drafthouse Films. While I knew there were many versions of Ms. 45, I wasn’t aware that it was never released in full until 2013. Crazy.

Overall, as with much of her previous work, Alexandra writes for the “common folk” when it comes to film critique. I would say about 15% of the book would be considered psycho babble but the rest is hardcore film criticism and looking into the film’s production, the screenings and reactions afterward. Ms. 45, when you look at it at face value, is not an easy film to fully understand and everybody comes away from it differently. Even though I have seen the film a few times over the years, this book illuminated somethings I missed (again, I’m a dumb shulb, don’t sue me…). If you are like me and enjoy reading about movies, Cultographies: Ms. 45 is a sure pick-up.

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Find the book and Alexandra on the Web here:

https://www.amazon.com/Ms-45-Cultographies-Alexandra-Heller-Nicholas/dp/0231179855

http://www.thebluelenses.com/

https://twitter.com/suspirialex