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On First Ave., A Graffiti Artist’s Return

aDSC_0774Jenn Pelly A newspaper distribution box designed by Adam Cole, the graffiti artist known as Cost. The piece is the first major public work in more than a decade by Mr. Cole, who has been largely inactive since a 1995 arrest for vandalism. Below: The reverse of the box.

A newspaper distribution box in the East Village now showcases the first major public work of art in more than a decade by one of New York City’s most infamous graffiti artists, Adam Cole, a.k.a. Cost. The work is a distribution box for Showpaper, the free New York newssheet that lists all-ages concerts throughout the tri-state area.

As one half of the graffiti duo Cost and Revs, the artist achieved mythic status in New York in the early ’90s graffiti world, for revolutionizing the wheatpasting medium and helping catapult it to a worldwide street art phenomenon.

The Cost-designed newsbox stands on Second Avenue at Houston Street, one of 12 Showpaper boxes redesigned last week by 25 notable graffiti and street artists at the Brooklyn art space Market Hotel. For Showpaper’s guerilla initiative, the newsboxes function as works of public art, with Manhattan and Brooklyn streets as their pop-up gallery. A map of locations is available here.

Mr. Cole, 41, has remained quiet since 1995, when he was arrested for vandalism. Then, The Times labeled him “New York’s most prolific graffiti-ist,” citing his arrest as, for some, “the end of an era.” Mr. Cole, of Rego Park, was 26. One irritated Times reader, however, wrote a letter to the editor saying: “The graffiti writer using the tag ‘Cost’ is probably the worst graffiti vandal in the history of New York.”

In their early ’90s unauthorized public art, Cost and Revs made use of the backs of “Walk/Don’t Walk” signs at nearly every intersection of Manhattan, with confusing slogans that perpetually included either the name “Cost” or “Revs.” (A 1993 Times piece on those curious, incognito Manhattan signs is available here.)
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