Haymarket Books
Books for changing the world
This Is Modern Art
A Play
A glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists that asks us to question the true purpose of art.
Graffiti crews are willing to risk anything for their art. Called vandals, criminals, even creative terrorists, graffiti artists set out to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world. But when one crew finishes the biggest graffiti bomb of their careers, the consequences get serious and spark a public debate asking, "Where does art belong?"

Kevin Coval is the author of Schtick, L-vis Lives, the American Library Association "Book of the Year" Finalist Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica, and an editor of The BreakBeat Poets.

Idris Goodwin is a playwright, spoken-word performer, and essayist recognized across mediums by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation.


  • "A romantic ode to the art of graffiti and the act of tagging, a piece that demystifies authorial signatures and charts the storied history of graffiti art in Chicago, shouting out its great artists and their canvases, from Kennedy underpasses to CTA train yards."
    Chicago Tribune

    "A raw, visceral narrative that gives graffiti artists the humanity and genius the headlines rob them of."
    Newcity Stage

    "This is a piece about the overwhelming urge not just to create art, but to get it seen—if only by a scant few before the sandblasters come along."
    TimeOut Chicago

    "A provocative play... that raises philosophical and political questions that are already generating heated discussions among theatergoers of all ages."
    Gapers Block

    "A wildly wrong-headed and potentially damaging work — No amount of classroom discussion will scrub clean the irresponsible ideas promulgated in this play."
    Chicago Sun-Times

    "It was at once an act of artistic expression, social protest, and criminal vandalism—guaranteed to rattle the art world and media establishment, set the Twittersphere abuzz, and send the young rebels underground, if not to jail. This world premiere, written by Idris Goodwin and Young Chicago Authors artistic director Kevin Coval, is simultaneously celebratory and cautionary—clearly sympathetic to the artists' point of view, but not blind to the impact their reckless act would have on their own lives."
    Chicago Reader

    "This production is sharp, exciting and stimulating, both visually and emotionally. It will entertain, educate and is guaranteed to prompt heated discussions about the nature of art and the place for graffiti in our world."
    Chicago Theatre Review

Other books by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin

  • A People's History of Chicago

    Named "Best Chicago Poet" by The Chicago Reader, Kevin Coval channels Howard Zinn to celebrate the Windy City's hidden history.
  • Inauguration

    Inauguration is a collection of ten poems written in reaction to the onset of the Trump era.
  • 1989, The Number

    For hip-hop heads 89 was the peak of the Golden Era and the Crack Epidemic.
  • The BreakBeat Poets

    Edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, et al.
    A first-of-its-kind anthology of hip-hop poetica written for and by the people.
  • Schtick

    Poet Kevin Coval offers both tragedy and comedy in this stirring exposition on Jewish assimilation and its discontents.
  • L-vis Lives!

    L-vis lives in this poetic narrative on the use and misuse of contemporary black culture.