Mayor Ed Koch, Graffiti Inspirer

February 1, 2013 | Bucky Turco

In Style Wars, the quintessential documentary about the early beginnings of graffiti and the City of New York’s attempts at battling its proliferation, there’s a particularly entertaining scene featuring an entire subway car that was painted with the words: “Dump Koch.” According to notorious bomber COPE2, that train was painted by SPIN TFS “on the 5 line in 1982.”

This of course was a direct shot at then mayor and now dead person Ed Koch, who made it his mission to try and stop the outlaw art movement—he once even suggested using wolves to protect MTA train yards. As you can imagine, the mere mention of this tactic and others drew the ire of many-a-writer and the young vandals can be heard cursing his existence throughout the film.

But not every writer hated him. CES, a Bronx-based graffiti writer who made his debut about a generation after the cast of Style Wars did their thing, sees him as inspiration of sorts and this morning, drew a black book memorial in homage to the blustery politician. “Ed Koch was a true iconic New York mayor. Although he was against graffiti, he gave the movement light and motivated many artists in the culture to push harder,” said CES to ANIMAL.

And push they did. Despite the mayor’s best efforts and even with the MTA’s buff policy requiring the immediate removal of any train from service that has been bombed, he did not wipe it out. It’s not only recognized as an art form by virtually every progressive museum, gallery, and art institution, but also is alive and well on the streets of virtually every major city around the world—especially New York.

RIP Ed Koch! But there’s still no reason to name a bridge after him.

(Illustration: CES)