A book documenting the vibrant New Orleans street art and graffiti scene has been released by Kady Yellow. A street art photographer and writer she has captured the essence of a vibrant art environment in this most iconic of American cities.
The book is an excellent resource. Detailed and full of pictures and stories. This is no standard pretty picture sort of tome. More so this is about getting deep inside the culture that exists amidst the streets of New Orleans.
Kady has written for Inspiring City before. Recently sharing with us her ‘Top 10 Most Inspiring Pieces‘. From this we got to know names like the enigmatic Old Crow, the prolific READ and the mysterious Hugo Gyrl. She introduced us to others too. Artists such as Will Lasso, Jay McKay, Ayo Scott, Henry Lipkis and the water cover painting Leluna.
Starting with a foreward from local artist Monica Rose Kelly the scene is really set and our insight into this place begins. New Orleans, she tells us, has always been a beacon of expression. “Our city is vibrant, musical, colourful and eclectic. She sings loudly with spirit and soul.” This evocative description is not far from how I would imagine it to be yet muralism still seems to be still a relatively recent phenomena. Kick started after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It was the crumbling building walls that remained which found themselves destined to become impromptu canvasses for tags and graffiti.
Yellow’s book is packed full of art. A total of 230 different full coloured images from a variety of contributing photographers. Here we learn about who is who from a combination of first hand and archival sources. Out of all the artists though it is the long standing crew ‘Top Mob‘ that she chooses to feature first. Formed in 1984 their blended styles from the early New York and the West Coast scenes formed the bedrock of the cities graffiti culture.
She tells us about READ an artist who Yellow says is the most visible writer in New Orleans. His ‘Open Your Eye’s piece at a place the locals call ‘The End of the World’ is perhaps the biggest in the city. Painted on what is actually a series of giant derelict building on the outskirts of town. These gritty spots are a dream for writers and urban explorers. Her interview with Old Crow too is revealing. Here is a man who has lived a life, travelling the country riding trains and eventually settling in the city. His name was given to him following a hobo gathering when he became particularly attached to a bottle of Old Crow Whisky.
The book is full of interesting stories. There’s that of the Gray Ghost. An anti-graffiti vigilante who become so notorious that Banksy even referenced him in a street piece in the city. Eventually coming a cropper he got busted himself in 2008 painting over a legal mural. Oh the sweet irony. Then there’s Homo Riot and his story of growing up gay in the city during the 80’s. “My continued hope” he says of his art, “is that my work will be seen by some young, uncertain kid, who will find strength and the seeds of pride in knowing they’re not along and that there’s a crew of groovy queers out there waiting for them.”
It’s full and every page brims with great art. Street art or graffiti the book blends them all and tells the story of an emerging scene in an exciting city. We get to know the players, the heroes and a pretty notorious villain. We hear from the mouths of the artists themselves and we understand them more. It’s easy to read and then see through the murals to the motivations behind them. If you want to see a different side of this famous city and if you love street art and graffiti then this book is a must.
New Orleans Street Art and Graffiti Volume One was released in November 2019. You can buy the book direct from Kady’s website here.