Mook (graffiti artist)

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Mook is the nom de plume of Michael Monack, a graffiti artist who was active in Pittsburgh in the early 2000s. The name means "knucklehead or idiot."[1]

Views of Mook's work
Close-up on "Mook" tag on South Tenth Street Bridge
Showing the bridgework that Mook had to scale

Mook began as a traditional graffiti artist targeting the South Side and Shadyside neighborhoods, but after his initial works were removed, he began placing his tags in hard to reach places, including tall bridges and highway overpasses.[1] He drew the ire of the then-Pittsburgh Mayor Thomas J. Murphy, Jr., who had tried to provide an outlet for graffiti artists by allowing them to spray paint walls along the Eliza Furnace trail.[1] He even etched "Mook" onto a Department of Public Works "Graffiti Busters" truck that was tasked with cleaning up graffiti.[1] At one point, merchants from the South Side, tired of having their businesses targeted, caught him and roughed him up, resulting in the tagging of "So you want to get tough?" to appear on the nearby Birmingham Bridge.[1]

He became known around the city and the media, but more for the audacity of the placement of his tags than the artistry.[1] According to Pittsburgh officials, "He's going into areas no one's gone before."[1] He even became known among law enforcement across Pennsylvania.[2] After Mook began to gain some fame in the Pittsburgh area, it is possible that multiple copycats have used the name, meaning that not every "Mook" tag in the area necessarily was created by him.[1]

With Mook's fame as a daredevil graffiti artist growing, some residents objected to the public officials' efforts to capture him.[3] He has public supporters who described him as "determined and skilled and has a sense of humor," arguing that "Although Mook has committed a crime, everyone loves him and he makes people happy."[4] Others objected to the public praise of Mook, saying that his supporters should be responsible for cleaning up his graffiti.[5]

On November 1, 2001, after receiving anonymous tip letters, police arrested 18-year-old South Side resident Michael Monack.[6] He was found with graffiti supplies.[6] In October 2002, Monack avoided felony charges and pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and defiant trespass, and Common Pleas Judge Robert E. Colville sentenced him to community service and thousands of dollars in fines.[7][8] On March 2003, police arrested Monack again for continuing to engage in graffiti.[9] Monack had been spotted in the Armstrong Tunnel among a group of graffiti artists at 5 a.m.; from there he fled to the South Tenth Street Bridge, where he was arrested.[9] His hearings were attended by neighborhood activists from areas targeted by his tagging where they expressed their extreme displeasure at his behavior.[10]

As of 2004, Mook had become a tattoo artist in Pittsburgh.[8] When asked by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about his opinion on the latest crop of the city's graffiti artists, he described them as "garbage."[8] Though, even years after ceasing his tagging, Mook's "infamy precedes him in many circles of the city."[8] However, his reputation as a graffiti artist in the city has been eclipsed by MFONE[11]

Mook "made his reputation scaling bridge suspensions and highway underpasses to spray "Mook" in places where even angels fear to tread."

Tony Norman, columnist for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h McNulty, Timothy (October 5, 2001). "Police anger reaches new heights over Mook's daredevil graffiti". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on October 5, 2001. 
  2. ^ White, Bill (Aug 7, 2004). "Graffiti punks in high places spur curiosity". The Morning Call. 
  3. ^ Andrews, Al (October 12, 2001). "The Mook Case Is Being Mishandled By Local Officials". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  4. ^ Silverman, Auora (November 7, 2001). ""Mook" Makes Us Happy". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  5. ^ Snedden, Kenneth (November 10, 2001). "Those Who Glorify "Mook" Should Help to Clean Up His Messes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  6. ^ a b "Man Arrested in "Mook" Graffiti Spree". Beaver County Times. November 1, 2001. 
  7. ^ a b Norman, Tony (March 13, 2003). "Painted as a menace, graffiti artist 'Mook' is held for trial". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  8. ^ a b c d Reilly, Richard Byrne (November 14, 2004). "Local Graffiti Legend Doesn't Miss Tagging". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 
  9. ^ a b "City police arrest noted graffiti writer 'Mook'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 3, 2003. 
  10. ^ Norman, Tony (March 14, 2003). "Will jailing of graffiti artist open a big can of paint?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  11. ^ Norman, Tony (January 29, 2008). "Daniel Montano, artist on the run". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 22, 2013.