Introduction by MARE 139 (Carlos Rodriguez)

From Here to Fame & powerHouse Books are pleased to announce
the hardcover release of STREET PLAY by Martha Cooper. In the late 70’s, New York City was in the throes of bankruptcy. The Lower Eastside was a wasteland of boarded up buildings and unfenced vacant lots. Kids roamed the neighborhoods unsupervised, giving their imaginations free rein. The city’s poorer neighborhoods had the richest street life and Martha Cooper’s favorite location was Alphabet City. Back in the 70’s the area was undergoing extensive urban renewal, a process still continuing some twenty-five years later. At the time, the neighborhood had more than it’s share of drug dealers and petty criminals. To an adult’s eye, the landscape seemed ugly and forbidding, but to a child the abandoned buildings and rubble-strewn lots made perfect playgrounds, providing raw materials and open space for improvised play. A crumbling tenement housed a secret clubhouse, rooftops became private aviary and a pile of trash might be a source for treasure. Opening with a poignant memoir from Carlos “MARE 139” Rodriguez, who remembers the excitement of growing up playing on the streets of New York City, STREET PLAY shows the creative and indomitable spirit of city kids determined to make the best of their inhospitable environment. Martha Cooper’s work attests to a transitional, post-tenement and pre-artist period on the Lower East Side when street culture held turf in Alphabet City. Today the neighborhood is transformed—but where are the go-carts and skelly caps? SEPTEMBER 8 – OCTOBER 8, 2006: HIP HOP YOU DON’T STOP: MARTHA COOPER & MARE 139 EXHIBIT
Photos by Martha Cooper from 1978 through 2005 plus Drawings by Carlos “Mare 139” Rodriguez.  Abrons Art Center at Henry Street Settlement 466 Grand St. (near Pitt St.) NY NY 10002. For more info: 212 598-0400 or
Trains: F to East Broadway or Delancey. D, B or Q to Grand St. J or M trains to Essex St. Photography / New York
Hardcover, 9.44 x 9.44 inches
120 pages, 100 duotone photos
ISBN: 3-937946-16-0 

MARTHA COOPER is a documentary photographer who has specialized in shooting urban vernacular art and architecture for over twenty-five years. In 1977, Martha worked as a staff photographer on the New York Post for three years. While photographing children playing on the street in the Lower East Side, she became interested in graffiti and b-boying/b-girling, subjects that led to her extensive coverage of Hip Hop culture as it emerged in New York City. In 1984, in collaboration with Henry Chalfant, she published SUBWAY ART (Thames and Hudson/Henry Holt) which features the best painted trains of the era and is affectionately called “The Bible” by graffiti aficionados worldwide. In 1990, she published R.I.P.: MEMORIAL WALL ART (Thames and Hudson/Henry Holt), with folklorist Joseph Sciorra. In 2004, she debuted her critically acclaimed title, Martha Cooper’s HIP HOP FILES: Photographs 1979-1984. Her photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries and published everywhere from Vibe to National Geographic. Martha has been the Director of Photography at City Lore, the New York Center for Urban Folk Culture for over twenty years. Please visit

CARLOS RODRIGUEZ aka MARE 139 is a veteran of the golden years of New York City subway painting; he painted along side many of the Style Masters of the late 70’s including KEL 1ST, DONDI and many others. In collaboration with this company he has developed a special insight into the artistic quality and cultural value of graffiti style writing. Over the past twenty years he has transcended the stereotype of the art form by creating innovative sculpture works that echo back to the origins of style writing on trains and reach out into the realm of dynamic modern sculpture. He designed the BET Award (sculpture of a shooting star) which has been received by artists, actors and athletes including Denzel Washington, Beyonce, Halle Berry, Jay-Z, Usher and Serena Williams. MARE 139, who appeared in the original cult classic documentary STYLE WARS in 1982, was an Associate Producer on the highly acclaimed DVD re-release of the film in 2002. In 2004, he launched the innovative and award winning website.
Please visit:


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