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Book Focuses on Queens 'Graffiti Master'

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You generally won't find graffiti on the subway any more, but you will find it in a new book that focuses on a Queens "graffiti master."

It's been a quarter-century since graffiti was essentially purged from the subway system, and even longer since the elevated Astoria line was a rolling canvas for Joseph Palatella, who tagged "Don 1" onto trains.

He's the subject of a new coffee-table book by Louie "KR.One" Gasparro, a 48-year-old former graffiti writer from Queens.

"I grew up seeing his tags on trains and his pieces, and wondering who he was, and thinking, 'This guy can't be from this neighborhood because he's just too good to be from here,'" Gasparro said.

So Gasparro launched a long quest to track down "Don 1" in hopes of producing a book that highlights what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority calls a "destructive urban phenomenon," but which Gasparro, now a graphic designer, says was his artistic inspiration.

"We already know about this from the neighborhood, but everybody else needs to see it, because it was amazing," Gasparro said.

It took Gasparro nearly a decade to get the book published, and that includes a year and a half of phone calls with his graffiti mentor just so the two could set up a meeting.

He discovered that the 53-year-old "Don 1" isn't doing so well, severely damaged from what Gasparro calls a "hedonistic '70s lifestyle" and still living in Queens, but also in possession of photos highlighting a long-gone era in city transit.

"He had this treasure chest of photos and negatives, so I immediately thought, along with him, that it would be a great historical document to put out there to show everybody else what I already knew," Gasparro said.

On Tuesday night, that took him to the Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue, where he and several other Queens graffiti writers discussed Don 1's influence, followed by a book signing.

"He was kind of like a hero us already, because he had this awesome tag that, it just stood out," said Wil "GEAR 1" Marmol, a graffiti artist.

The museum's "City as Canvas" exhibition, on display through September 21, celebrates graffiti, even if transit officials don't.

"New York City graffiti traveled to L.A.. Then it traveled to Europe and had a big impact on young people interested in art," said Sean Corcoran, curator of "City as Canvas" at the Museum of the City of New York.

Just ask KR.One.

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