An article celebrating the 25th anniversary edition of Subway Art, by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfan, constructs an analogy, which I believe works as follows--Western Democracy is to the Age of Pericles as 21st Century Graffiti Artists are to the Age of Ed Koch. Hmm...Is that meaningful?
Those who identify themselves as Western look at the ancient Athenians as a smaller, earlier version of themselves. Greeks in the Age of Pericles had the idea of democracy, the idea of the individual, the idea of reason and its importance. Something similar is at work when a hiphop head of the '00s looks at these photos of graffiti artists on the streets, apartments, and subway tracks of New York. We see ourselves in these people who had an idea of postmodern urbanism, an idea of the power of appropriating pop culture, an idea of what David Harvey calls "the right to the city." These citizens of the Age of Mayor Koch are us in our infancy.