When New York subway graffiti died in the 1980s, a lot of old time graffiti writers felt that the distinctive mural-on-metal style -- wildly distorted, kinetic lettering, vivid colours and pop culture cartoon characters -- died along with it. But if the book "Montana Writer Team: Graffiti at Its Best" is any indication, the old-school style of painting is not only alive but revitalized, thanks in large part to a crew of dedicated artists assembled by the German spray paint company Montana.
The graffiti productions of the Montana Writer Team -- Atom, Can2, Dash, Smash137 and Kent -- recall elaborate top-to-bottom subway car paintings of legendary artist Seen, whom Can2 counts as a major influence. But rather than duplicating old styles, MWT reimagines its inspirations, preserving the bone structure of traditional graffiti while meticulously coating it with new letterforms and delectable colour schemes. The results are fresh and familiar at once.
Can2 devises many of the ideas behind the spray paintings. In one, a ghetto blaster emits the writer's individual styles layered over wavy musical notes. "Let the Music Play," reads the subtitle of this groovy masterpiece, and you can practically hear the 80s refrain of Shannon's dance classic pulsate in the background.
Frustratingly, some of the artist's pieces are intentionally blurred, apparently due to former MWT members not granting permission for their graffiti to appear in the publication. This not only detracts from some of the work but it leaves a niggling question as to what could have caused such friction to result in these eyesores throughout the book.
Reudione, the book's author, apologizes for these obliterations, but it's apparent that English isn't his first language: "We respect this to a 100% even if we think that it is a pitty not to show these great styles." (A proofreader would have had a field day.) Even so, there are more than enough eye-popping images to make up for the occasional pixilation and typos.
Overall, "Montana Writer Team" will appeal to both graffiti fanatics and casual observers alike. And although graffiti purists may quibble that the art movement just isn't the same anymore now that it has moved into galleries and on tours and exhibitions, they can at least be grateful that artists such as those in MWT delight in carrying the torch (or, more appropriately, spray can) of old-school legends.