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CYBER SITE

Graffiti and the Internet might seem incompatible at first blush, for how can you spray-paint an electron?

But wait a minute. When we're talking about modern urban graffiti artists -- not just bored teens or gang members scrawling initials or drug slogans onto vulnerable walls -- maybe there's some common bond after all.

"Check out my obsessions" might well be the slogan for the new generation of personal Web page builders, as it might well have been in the 1970s, when New York City and other metropolises started discovering subway cars or tunnel walls transformed into mind-bending, highly stylized displays of forbidden art.

If that ever intrigued you, check out Art Crimes, a one-of-a-kind Web site (at www.graffiti.org) that not only presents a remarkable collection of this art from around the world, but explores the artists, philosophies and issues behind it.

"Our main goals are to provide cultural information and resources and to help preserve and document the constantly disappearing paintings," the site explains. "We also want to spread the truth that this kind of graffiti, called 'writing,' is being done by artists who call themselves 'writers,' not by gangs."

It's cutting-edge art that plays with violating artistic as well as legal boundaries, but not without due respect for the potential consequences.

"In many places, painting graffiti is illegal," the site notes. "We do not advocate breaking the law, but we think art belongs in public spaces and that more legal walls should be made available for this fascinating art form. Because it is so hard to get books published and to keep photos and blackbooks from being seized and destroyed, the Internet may be the best way to publish and preserve this information."

But you don't have to yearn to spray in order to enjoy the site. Paintings are categorized by city and artist, to make flipping easier. The site's server makes downloading pages relatively swift.

If flipping through the art gets boring, there are also links to other edgy art sites, 'zines, and outposts of hip-hop culture. Any way you look at it, Art Crimes is a real eye-popper.

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