Lucky #7: From Graffiti to Sleek Modernism

Growing up in Queens, N.Y. and taking the #7 train on a daily basis during the ’70s and ’80s gave me a panoramic view of my surroundings and beyond. Starting its run in 42nd Street in Manhattan, and ending up in Flushing, Queens, the #7 train line traverses a microcosm of every imaginable cultural background under the sun.

Some of the offspring of these newly arrived immigrants, as well as kids from long-standing ethnic enclaves, left a mark on the elevated steel-encased vehicles that crisscrossed their neighborhoods. They accomplished this by putting up graffiti tags, a rite of passage that filled the outsides and insides of every train until the advent of harder to paint subway cars and aggressive anti-graffiti campaigns that started in the mid-’90s.

Other parts of New York City had train lines that shared a similar history and had an equally engaging body of work, but none share a special place in my heart like the lucky #7. The days of bombed-out trains are over; in its place one is likely to find top-to-bottom advertisements for television sitcoms or cell phone providers. That comes as no surprise, as these iron horses have always been an apropos blank canvas for artistic or commercial purposes, as well as our own personal aspirations.

The following is a visual tribute to those long-gone masterpieces on wheels, and to its current aerodynamically correct incarnation.

Shout out to the OQB crew for documenting these classic images.

(above) A graffiti-free train in 1972.

(above) STAY HIGH 149 tag from 1973.

(above) An unfinished SPANKY piece in front of Shea Stadium, 1973. (Photo: Jay Edlin’s collection)

SEE ALSO: The Graffiti and Hardcore Connection, by Freddy Alva

(above) CAINE ONE (RIP) piece, 1976. (Photo: Making All Stops book)

(above) A pink throw up from #7 king ROGER, mid-’70s.

(above) FLAME TPA, 1982.

(above) PECK and P-1 pieces, 1974. (Photo: Freight Bench’s collection)

(above) Getting up inside the #7.

(above) SOE X-MEN and BIG SHIT TMT, 1980.

(above) SON ONE SSB on the long-gone Metropolitan #7 line station, 1976. (Photo: COR SSB’s collection)

(above) STAY HIGH 149 comeback, 2001.

(above) Train yard layups at dusk, 1980s.

(above) CAVS and GHOST, mid-’80s.

(above) A #7 train recreated on an 18-wheeler. (Photo: ARTISSIN’s collection)

(above) ANGEL DUSTER a.k.a. KOOL AD, 1983. (RIP)

SEE ALSO: 2014 interview with Dan Seagrave (album cover artist for Suffocation, Entombed, Morbid Angel).

(above) NEO NOG getting up on the white #7’s, 1983.

(above) Seinfeld subway cars, 2013.

(above) Done by KR ONE.

(above) The #7 train, 2014.



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