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The Faith of Graffiti Paperback – December 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"The Faith is the bible of graffiti. It forever captures the place, the time, and the writings of those of us who made it happen." —Snake I

In 1973, author Norman Mailer teamed with photographer Jon Naar to produce The Faith of Graffiti, a fearless exploration of the birth of the street art movement in New York City. The book coupled Mailer's essay on the origins and importance of graffiti in modern urban culture with Naar's radiant, arresting photographs of the young graffiti writers' work. The result was a powerful, impressionistic account of artistic ferment on the streets of a troubled and changing city—and an iconic documentary record of a critical body of work now largely lost to history.

This new edition of The Faith of Graffiti, the first in more than three decades, brings this vibrant work—the seminal document on the origins of street art—to contemporary readers. Photographer Jon Naar has enhanced the original with thirty-two pages of additional photographs that are new to this edition, along with an afterword in which he reflects on the project and the meaning it has taken on in the intervening decades. It stands now, as it did then, as a rich survey of a group of outsider artists and the body of work they created—and a provocative defense of a generation that questioned the bounds of authority over aesthetics.

About the Author

Norman Mailer (1923-2007) was one of the most important American voices of the twentieth century—a journalist, essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, film director, and public intellectual. The author of more than forty books including The Naked and the Dead, The Executioner's Song, and Armies of the Night, he was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize, received the National Book Award, and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Jon Naar is an internationally acclaimed documentary and fine art photographer and the author of twelve books, including The Birth of Graffiti and the bestselling Design for a Limited Planet. His photography has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and many other museums and art galleries worldwide. He lives in New Jersey.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; First Edition edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061961701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061961700
  • Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ted Burke on November 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've been re-reading Norman Mailer's "The Faith of Graffiti" , and it seems astounding Mailer grasped a street aesthetic born of marginalized , nonwhite urban youth. This is an important essay I suspect Eric Michael Dyson or Cornell West would come to admire. Mailer is susceptible to the charges of depicting these artists as noble savages, but he does make the connections between the impulse to transform the environment by adding a bit of one's personality upon it with the shattered reconstructions of Picasso's vision. Nice polemic, this. What impresses me is that he refined the existential-criminal-at-the-margins tact he controversially asserted in his essay "The White Negro", backing away from the idea that violence could direct one to knew kinds of perception and knowledge, and emphasized an aesthetic response to a crushing , systematized oppression. Living long enough ,I suppose, made Mailer aware of strong trend in urban style that added value to circumstances and individual growth that didn't involve a fist, a gun or a knife.

Mailer would argue that modern architecture and the corporate power it represent is violence against them and their right to exist, and that graffiti is an aesthetic response to an economic reality that wants nothing to with individuals or their dreams or their latent talents. It creates an intimate relationship with the surroundings that other wise seem designed to urge one to end their lives anonymously. Mailer, though, was talking about a particular quality of prolific taggers , "writers" as they called themselves, and rather rightly discussed them that they were artists no less than the gallery variety.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is it. Look no further, wait no longer. Here is the winner. The best book ever written about graffiti...hand down. The Big Bang in the world of graffiti books. Whatever Norman Mailer got paid to write this book, it should be doubled.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Lobo on June 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Faith of Graffiti deservedly remains an icon and reference in the documentation and vindication of graffiti, and the urban cultures it represents. Taking the form of a photo-essay with images taken by John Naar in 12 days between December 1972, and January 1973, with a text by Norman Mailer, it saw the light first in 1974 gaining cult status. A much expected reprint with a few additional images, was finally offered in 2009.

The volume operates as a sample case study documenting relatively early graffiti manifestations, although some of those involved were already talking of a dead scene at the time. While quite innovative in formalizing the work, what Naar and Mailer documented referred to a cultural form that with its shifts and transformations was already quite well developed.

These early years present a nice raw sense of graffiti in the city, and Naar's images offer an stimulating document. However Mailer's essay feels not only a bit disconnected, maybe even dated, but other than for the congratulatory hyperbole of graffiti it feels in a manner that it barely scratches the surface. The New/Gonzo Journalism employed by Mailer uses an openly personal and subjective approach that more often instead of feeling that it aims to offer the close and critical account of an experience, ends putting him egotistically at the center of the narrative.

However it is true that Mailer makes a strong case for the recognition and importance of graffiti, and in that context the essay has often been idealized to extremes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ricardo Barros on February 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
When The Faith of Graffiti was first published, in 1974, modern graffiti-writing culture was just reaching the first of its several ascendancies. The streets and trains of New York were `destroyed' with the writers' tags. This book was the first to look at proliferate tagging not as a nuisance but as a sub-cultural movement. Jon Naar photographed his New York environment over an intensive, two-week period to produce an extraordinary time capsule. Norman Mailer later lent his voice to the project with a flawed, but well-meant, interpretation of the seemingly foreign values that had taken hold in this American city. Even though the book soon went out-of-print, it quickly rose to, and has maintained, the status of a cult classic among writers in the graffiti underground.

Now, some thirty-five years later, The Faith of Graffiti has just been re-released in its second edition. While the title remains unchanged, and its content includes virtually all of the photographs and text of the original, the book has been entirely redesigned. More photographs are included and the presentation packs a stronger wallop. The principal explanation for this is not the inclusion of additional imagery, but that Jon Naar's photographs are now presented full-frame. There is a greater sense of context associated with each image. We see the compositions as the photographer saw them. We, the book's audience, no longer need to dress up graffiti as graphic design in order to appreciate it.

After we flip past Mailer's introductory text, it is as if we, the reader, are riding a train back in the day. It is a magical train, one not bound to its rails, and our trip takes us through many of the old neighborhoods. We catch a succession of fleeting glimpses framed by our window, this book in our hands.
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