13 for 2013 : James Prigoff “Complexity of Apex in San Francisco”


Happy Holidays to all you stupendous and talented and charming BSA readers! We thank you from the bottom of our socks for your support this year. The best way we can think of to celebrate and commemorate the year as we finish it is to bring you 13 FROM 2013 – Just one favorite image from a Street Art or graffiti photographer that brings a story, a remembrance, an insight or a bit of inspiration to the person who took it. For the last 13 days they will share a gem with all of us as we collectively say goodbye and thank you to ’13.

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Few people can claim to have the actual historical knowledge of the modern day graffiti age that James Prigoff does. To put it another way, he wrote to us a few months ago to tell us about a celebration he attended this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of Hip-Hop, a cultural movement that began when Jim was 46. 

An internationally respected photographer, artist, author, and lecturer on the subject of worldwide urban murals, his seminal 1987 book “Spraycan Art” with co-author Henry Chalfant is considered one of the the earliest published books on aerosol art, graffiti practices and street culture.

Asking Mr. Prigoff to chose just one image is like asking Paul McCartney to pick one song – the volume and depth of knowledge is hard to condense for today’s age of short-attention spans.  But he’s a champ and this one is his choice for 2013.


Apexer. San Francisco, CA 2013 (photo © James Prigoff)

A complexity of styles in an Historic SF Location

~ James Prigoff

From a historical point of view, we must remember that modern day Graffiti started with the most rudimentary tags. Few, if any, of the writers had any sense of calligraphy. As more and more youth began to participate in street writing, style began to enter their thinking. Among the very early style masters, Daim from Germany and Ernie from Brooklyn began creating complex 3-D styles that made their hand writings as distinguishable as Impressionist artists like Monet and Matisse. 3-D styles have been adopted by many writers worldwide, but Apex has taken the creation to a new level of sophistication combined with an exceptional sense of color.

Also significant is the location of the painting, on the back of a large building, that is part of the Stephenson parking lots in San Francisco. This was the home of Psycho City for over ten years, before it was buffed and had been named for a great Dug One piece. Psycho City was a west coast “Hall of Fame” where writers would come from countries all over the world. It was also a non-permission venue. As times have changed, the two large pieces that are there now are part of a permission renaissance to upgrade the area through the use of Graffiti (Urban) Art … a la Wynwood in Miami and others.

Psycho City is a place of a thousand memories; The Zulu Nation event where the visiting policeman found his car completely tagged on returning to it, the celebration of “OAKLAND DREAM” one of the legendary names in west coast graff, Brett Cook’s “Dizney’s” political pieces, Nate and Omen’s (MPC) blockbuster walls, HEX (LA) and Omega’s piece that didn’t last eight hours before someone buffed it, ad infinitem.

I chose this photo because it is a fine example of the evolution from a very simple art form that has developed in many different ways to become a complexity of styles.

ARTIST: Ricardo Richey (Apex – Apexer) 2013



Check out our Brooklyn Street Art 2013 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo here.


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