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Spray Anything

The most talented creators of American graffiti paint the town

picture-18687-1374507227Phoebe Reilly // May 14, 2004

The most talented creators of American graffiti paint the townred (and other colors) in Autograf

Mostgraffiti artists aren’t interested in seeing their efforts preserved incoffee-table books-they just want to finish spray painting before thecops arrive. “Graffiti is a victimless crime that is for the people, bythe people,” says the pseudonymous Claw, a 35-year-old fashion designerwho’s been tagging New York with her claw emblem since 1989. “I don’twant to seem like I’m baiting the police, but I go to great lengths formy art.”

She’s one of the creative scofflaws immortalized in photographer Peter Sutherland’s Autograf: New York City’s Graffiti Writers(powerHouse Books), a tribute to the daring men and women who riskfines and even jail time to create their guerrilla art. Sutherland, 27,first got the idea for the project while filming his 1998bike-messenger documentary, Pedal, when he noticed that one ofhis subjects was tagging phone booths and subway stairwells with thealias PEZ. “Graffiti is very anonymous,” says Sutherland, “and I reallywanted to put a face to the name.” Though most of his Autografsubjects preferred to pose with their wanted mugs obscured, more than50 members of the city’s “graffiti grapevine” agreed to participate.”It’s a secret culture,” says Claw, “but once you know one writer, youknow them all.”