I took the train from Manhattan to Coney Island this past week. I enjoy riding the elevated lines for the peek at random acts of art. In my own city of D.C., I recently biked by a painting crew splotching over an especially cool tag. The effects of gentrification ripple out like a stone dropped in water. The obvious culprits are easy to spot (I’m looking at you Empire Mayonnaise). The literal white washing of street art is subtler.
Hua Hsu recently addressed this issue in a comment for the New Yorker. In the piece, Hsu mentions a 1970s film on New York’s nascent graffiti scene called Stations of the Elevated. Directed by Manfred Kirchheimer, the wordless film offers an impressionistic glimpse of early hip hop culture. Sure, street art comes with historical associations to gang life and aimless kids. However, it can also be an early sign of the rejuvenation of a landscape. Let’s not forget this as we give it a fresh coat.