Allen Boys Remnants and Lee Quinones

Posted on: March 3rd, 2011 at 6:08 am by

In the gated driveway beside Sunshine Cafe at 201 Allen Street is a decades-old mural that is barely visible to the naked eye. Today it’s a faded reminder of the wild graffiti frontier of the old neighborhood.  Back in 1982, Lee Quinones spraypainted a stunning piece of art here called “Allen Boys.”

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Photo: Martha Cooper

These days, though, the glory of Allen Boys is all but lost.  The colors are fatally faded and overwritten in some spots.  All that remains of the original mural is the hat head and some shadowing.

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Born in Puerto Rico and raised on the Lower East Side, Lee Quinones eventually rose to become one of the most influential and well-regarded players in the late-70s subway art movement. He is estimated to have sheathed roughly 125 cars, many of which were untouched by other writers.  Quinones is also known for his handball-court artwork, the most famous being the 25 x 30 foot “Howard the Duck” outside Corlears Junior High School #56.

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[Howard the Duck; Photo Credit: Lee Quinones]

Last March, Cityroom invited the artist to answer questions about graffiti as part of its ongoing “Answers from a…” series.  One reader posed the question of whether the city should have stepped in to help preserve the illegal Allen Boys mural. This was the response:

I understand your concern over the destruction of the “Allen Boys” mural, since it was the last standing mural in Manhattan from the early ’80s, but I think that the handball wall murals in the schoolyard of Corlears Junior High School 56 on Madison Street should have also been preserved. “Howard the Duck” (1978) and the “Lion’s Den” (1980) were entirely spray painted murals – essentially the first large standing pieces of street art, measuring 30 feet x 25 feet. “Howard the Duck” was illegal, the first of its kind, and it also spearheaded my fine arts career above ground. Due to the positive outpouring of kudos in the community, the school principal gave me a handwritten permission slip to complete the second side of the handball wall in 1980 with the “Lion’s Den.”

However, there is one awesome neighborhood mural of his that remains remarkably intact.  His “Know Your Rights” piece on Eldridge Street was painted in November 2005, and touched up again last year. The lack of graffiti vandalism on the gate proper is no doubt a testament to the respect he commands.

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