Spray Anything

Phoebe Reilly WRITTEN BY
Phoebe Reilly

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."

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