Spraymasters. 2007. USA. Directed by Manfred Kirchheimer. 82 min.
In 1970s New York (“Ford to City: Drop Dead!”), graffiti-covered subways symbolized the decline and fall of civilization. Today, graffiti is the stuff of auction bidding wars, academic dissertations, and Mall of America fashion lines. Set to a pulsating original soundtrack, Spraymasters follows four ex-graffiti artists—Zephyr, Lee Quiñones, Lady Pink, and Futura 2000—who as teenagers risked life, limb, and incarceration tagging subway cars in a fierce bid for street cred. With its Atget-like cataloging of graffiti styles long since whitewashed, Spraymasters documents a New York phenomenon that—for better or worse—has gone the way of the Automat and the egg cream.