Montreal’s ASHOP crew is a complete team of talented writers and painters who can handle the commercial jobs – but when it comes to having fun they just want to hit the wall with their own stuff for a few hours.
While in Sacramento last month, WIDE OPEN WALLS founder David Sobon found the aerosol team some primo possibilities and they didn’t hesitate.
“Meeting their deadline, you would think they would have been exhausted and glad to relax for a day or two,” says photographer and co-author of Spray Can Art, Jim Prigoff. “In the true graffiti spirit, they asked ‘Isn’t there a wall we could go and paint?’” he marvels as he describes these new photos he took of the jubilant day.
Often an activity overlooked by the everyday joe, outside painting is one of the most joyous activities a person can do – especially when COVID has you cooped up and afraid of getting or spreading the virus. Here are a talented group working side by side, leaving new works for the city to enjoy.
“In some 50 years of documenting public art, I have never seen such an outpouring of political images as I have personally witnessed in the streets of San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, ” photographer and historian Jim Prigoff tells us. He’s been hitting the streets in the last week and feeling the rage and defiance of the protestors as well as the artists who are pouring themselves out onto colorful walls.
He tells us that he has watched as tens of thousands of people continue to demonstrate every day. “Much of it is related to the murder of George Floyd,” he says, “and all that it portends relating to race relations and specifically the phrase that sums it all up is ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’.”
Limited in his personal mobility to shooting from his car window, Mr. Prigoff has an eagle’s eye when it comes to catching the good stuff and we are honored that he shares what he has found here with BSA readers. He says that he would like to disseminate his shots “in any way that helps to call attention to the continuing injustice and the absolute necessity for dramatic change.”
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. “Who is TAKI183?”, Jim Prigoff and Cedric Godin 2. ESPO: A Love Letter For You 3. Exquisite Waste Of Time – Telmo Miel
BSA Special Feature: “Who is TAKI183?”
Graffiti writers were going hard in New York City in the mid-late 1960s but it wasn’t until the elite cultural avatar The New York Times did a story on the prolific TAKI183 in July of 1971 that many felt that the graffiti scene was somehow validated. From that point forward, the writer’s reputation as being all-city and unofficial representative of taggers everywhere was gold plated among his peers, and competition to get up all-city was suddenly on fire.
Writer, photographer, author, lecturer and storied nonagenarian Jim Prigoff, who published Spraycan Art with Henry Chalfant in 1987, has just produced a new video with Cedric Godin that more closely examines this tagger/standard-bearer and lets the camera roll on stories from him and others inside his family’s car repair shop.
“A lot of the earlier graffiti was scratched or done with paint brushes. There weren’t really spray cans. I think because markers were available and you could do it quick,” says Taki.
“I discovered the first graffiti in NY as Taki 183. I was stunned. This
determined my life direction,” says French Street Artist Blek le Rat.
“But in New York, it was the media capital of the world,” says Philadelphia graffiti king Cornbread, who was writing in the 1960s as well. “When they had done something, it was magnified. To be honest with you, New York overshadowed me.”
The storytelling leads to stylized writing and people like Stay High 149 and
the dawn of more formalized or experimental gallery spaces like Fashion Moda in
the Bronx. But Taki retained his tagger status, and remained a touchpoint for
an era. “I never had a relationship with the art world because I was just so
removed from it.
So much of this history is lost already, mostly because our art institutions
and universities have been ignorant and adamantly so about the importance of
graffiti in the language of society and its evolution as the most democratic
global art movement ever. Videos like this one by Mr. Prigoff and Cedric Godin act to preserve
and archive the images and voices of those at the forefront of a movement that
influenced so many other parts of global culture.
WHO is TAKI183 A film by Jim Prigoff and Cedric Godin
ESPO: A Love Letter For You
“To mark the 10th anniversary of A Love Letter For You, ESPO and the film director Joey Garfield held a Q & A in Brooklyn’s Night Hawk Cinema. With this documentary, Mr. Garfield captures the artist’s process while directly asking the residents of this Philadelphia community, which was once ESPO’s own hood, what they wish was painted on the walls. ESPO took the inspiration that he received from the community and went onto painting 50 walls.
Exquisite Waste Of Time – Telmo Miel
Exactly how your dad describes your interest in painting, in music, in social work – an “Exquisite Waste of Time”. Luckily, this video promo for a show by Telmo and Miel will make you drool so much to paint that you won’t care what Dad says.
They used to run from the Vandal Squad in this
neighborhood. Now people pay to see their art here.
Through the expansive glass wall on the 6th floor you can look down Kent Avenue to see the spot where a monster pickup truck with a heavy chain tied around a FAILE prayer wheel almost jackknifed on the sidewalk, gave up and sped away. Not that many Brooklynites saw that event in the 2000s – nobody walked here and few people drove through Williamsburg then except truckers looking for street walking ladies wearing high heels and spandex. Oh, and a serial killer.
Now visitors buy tickets to see a circular colonnade of FAILE prayer wheels here at 25 Kent – including the real estate developers and Wall Street professionals who displaced the community of artists whose work made the neighborhood attractive and “edgy”.
Along with Street Artists in this exhibition like Shepard Fairey, Bast, Swoon, Invader, Aiko, Dan Witz, Katsu, 1UP, and Lister, the FAILE duo put completely illegal artworks on walls under cover of night and threat of arrest in this same neighborhood then – transforming it with many others who are not in this show into an open gallery of the streets, placing Williamsburg on the map as New Yorks’ epicenter of the newly emerging Street Art scene.
The Nature of Graffiti and Street Art
As graffiti and Street Art are migratory and necessarily elusive by nature, this story is only one chapter in a volume of history that serious academics are now reconstructing and analyzing. With each passing year and published white paper, the practices of 20th century public mark-making are being examined in greater detail for archiving and for posterity. Not surprisingly, institutions, patrons, collectors, and brands are increasingly interested in this story as well.
When it comes to the anarchic subculture of illegal
street art practice and its influence on society, there are non-stop ironies
sprayed en route from verboten to Vuitton, and street culture has supercharged
the imagination of the mainstream and high culture throughout history – that’s
where the best ideas come from sometimes. Many seminal artworks from “the
scene”, as it were, represent much more than what you are seeing at first
glance. As art and cultural critic Carlo McCormick has described the iconic
Shepard Fairey ‘Hope’ image in Art in
America, many graffiti and Street Art works saved are “not a
fleeting pop-culture sensation but simply the latest crossover hit in a long
line of underground classics.”
The wide-ranging survey that is Beyond the Streets makes sure that you know where the roots are, and who many of the pioneers were. It is impossible to tell a complete story that includes scenes as diverse as west coast Chicano muralism, hobo graffiti, hip-hop commercial design, NY downtown artivism, Japanese low/hi contemporary, skateboard, tattoo, early train writing and a current romance with muralism, but BTS at least gives a serious consideration to each and offers you the opportunity to look further into them.
With the help of photography documentation from people like Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Jim Prigoff, Lisa Kahane, Joe Conzo, John Fekner, Bill Daniel, Maripol, and Dash Snow, the crucial importance of this work provides needed interstitial and contextual information that enables myriad stories to be elucidated.
Exhaustive, no. Exhausting, possibly. Pace yourself.
spent my life surrounded by graffiti and Street Art,” says the shows’ director
Roger Gastman “and you could say that I have been obsessed with understanding
the culture, its origins, and its evolution. It’s incredible to me how far it
With 150 artists whose practices span five decades
and various (mainly) American subcultures displayed in a maze of new walls in
this 100,000 sf, two-floor exhibition, the Beyond the Streets senior curatorial
team includes Gastman, filmmaker/ graffiti historian Sacha Jenkins SHR, Juxtapoz
Editor in Chief Evan Pricco, and author/ graffiti historian / graffiti writer David
CHINO Villorente. Each curator brings core competencies and knowledge of the
graffiti scene (Gastman, Jenkins, Villorente) as it has evolved to include the
Street Art practice and an eventual move toward contemporary art (Pricco).
“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” says Villorente, who says his history as
a graffiti writer compounds the impact for him. “I was glad that the show was
coming to New York because I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I couldn’t have
imagined it – especially when I think back on when I was writing on the trains
and doing illegal graffiti. To have of show of this magnitude is really
“We started writing in ’68 and here we are, fifty-one years later,” says Mike 171 as he gestures toward himself and crew writer SJK 171 when talking about how they began and continued writing their tags on the street in New York City. “This is the history right here,” he says, and you know you are about to be schooled about the plain realities of early graffiti writing. At the opening, you witness each guy tagging in a large dusty window here and realize the love for writing never actually stops.
“We were expressing something that was inside of us,” says SJK 171. “The streets were like ours,” he tells you against a backdrop of their work, Cornbread’s work, and of images full of one color, single line monikers that set the stage for the more colorful, character-driven pieces and burners a decade later, transforming trains into a rolling aesthetic symphony by the mid 1970s.
One of the actual “whole car” writers of that period, Lee “LEE” Quinones, here recreates a “Soul Train” car side on a canvas that looks like it could easily wrap an actual MTA #2-line car that he used to slaughter with cans in the middle of the night at the train yard. When describing the new work he said he was intentionally keeping it simple – perhaps owing the style to his earlier practice.
“I think this is one of Lee’s most amazing pieces,” says Charlie Ahearn, the director of the seminal 1982 “Wild Style” film that Quinones stars in. Ahearn self-produced that film which became an important distillation of the merging of graffiti with hip-hop culture during a pivotal moment in the history of both. Now also a professor of Hip-Hop, art, design, and documentary film making at Pace University, Ahearn is familiar with many of the artists work here, many relationships reaching back decades. “I told Lee that I liked that it was a one-off, that he painted all the color straight off without the embellishment, texturing, and all that stuff.”
Charlie’s twin brother John Ahearn is represented here popping out from walls as well, his sculptures serving as authentic portraits of people you may easily have seen on New York streets over the last four decades. Casted directly on top of the people themselves in a technique he has perfected, the placement of the sculptures gives life to the space.
Star Writers, Immersive Environments, Foundations
The individual clusters of work and canvasses by 1970s-80s train painters like Futura, Crash, Lady Pink, Freedom, Carlos Mare, Blade, Haze, and Daze and next gen graphic painters like Doze Green and Rime are complemented by a number of so-called “immersive” spaces here like the Mission Schools’ Barry McGee storefront with smashed window, and the Australian Pop duo Dabs & Myla’s eye candy floral walls with thousands of artificial fauna created in collaboration with Amelia Posada.
The high-profile graphic activist Shepard Fairey’s 30 year career overview takes a large area and encompasses all elements of his street and studio practice, and Bill Barminski’s cardboard home is open for you to explore with a wry smile, remembering the security room installation he did at Banksy’s Dismaland a couple years earlier.
also treated to a full rolling wall of Craig Stecyk posters that brings you the
sun and surf of California skate culture, sculptures by Mr. Cartoon and Risk, a
kid-friendly illustrated room with crafting supplies for young fans on tables
from HuskMitNavn, and an astute freight train culture educational display by
writer/painter/sculptor Tim Conlon (complete with a mid-sized Southern Pacific freight
on train tracks he and friends built), prints/photos by historian Bill Daniel, and
original drawings by the man some call the King of Hobo Art, buZ blurr.
are a self portrait as predicated on a first Bozo Texino person and I kind of
changed the image around,” says Mr. blurr, a legendary figure in denim
overalls, as he patiently describes his classic tag image of a railway cowboy.
is a writer motif – the pipe smoke is going up and then it is trailing back to
signify movement as the train goes down the track,” he says. “I worked in the
train yards and my job was as a brakeman. I had a little free time so I started
making drawings. I made my first one on November 11, 1971,” he says as he
recalls the state of mind that he was in at the time as he began to tag
freights with the image and text that came to him clearly – and may have
perplexed other travellers.
came from a confused state. I was questioning everything. I was putting kind of
cryptic messages under my drawings. It was anybody’s guess as to its literal
interpretation. I addressed some of them up to specific people but whether they
saw them or responded to them, I wouldn’t have any idea.”
it’s shipped in the crate its 550 pounds,” says Conlon as he stands by the 3-foot
high freight car re-creation on tracks and ties that is
hit with a couple of wild and colorful graffiti burners. “Here I’m going to
show you something,” he says as he pulls back the roof to reveal the narrow
coffin interior in rusted red. “So I’m going to hide some beer in here during
the opening party. This is like the fifth one of these I’ve made,” and he proudly
confides that one lives in the house of Robert Downey Jr.
Digging Deep to Take Risks
to rest on laurels and previous formulas of success, the show keeps a freshness
by presenting known entities pushing themselves further and taking creative risks;
a reflection of that spirit of experimentation we have always prized on the
writer Earsnot from Irak crew, now known professionally as Kunle Martin, said
he had been making work for the gallery containing elements of graffiti, but
felt they were too “safe”.
“Then my friend Dan said ‘you should go back to doing drawings,’” he says as he stands before figurative canvasses in black and white on cardboard. “I said ‘I can’t! It’s too hard! But eventually I began working in my studio five days a week, and I made enough for a show.”
Reflective of the attitude of Gastman toward artists in the community, he told Martin that if he made enough of them, he could place them in this show. “I think he was happy to hear that I was in my studio working. He’s been very supportive of it.”
color-drenched graphic/photographic collage style is featured with plenty of
space in large frames from Chicago’s Pose, who says he is letting photography
and geometry lead him away from his previous pop collage style that may have reminded
many of Lichtenstein. His inspiration here comes from his research into early
photos of graffiti writers running from police “I was
obsessed with John Naars photos and I have usually Norman Mailer as in
inspiration. Some of these photo references are from the Philadelphia Inquirer,” he says.
New York’s Eric Haze also dares himself to take a new direction with three canvasses featuring a refracted piecing-together of imagery and memories of this city in monochrome. Based on black and white scenes of the city by photographer and NYC taxi driver Matt Weber, the scenes capture aspects that are culled from imagination and impression. The centerpiece canvas captures an iconic piece of the Williamsburg waterfront that has been removed in the last few years by developers; the signage of the old Domino Sugar factory by the Williamsburg Bridge.
Mr. Haze said he meant it as a gift and tribute to
his wife, actress and longtime resident of the neighborhood, Rosie Perez who
used to see it along Kent Avenue as a kid. “He’s not afraid to take risks. He’s not afraid to go in the
studio and express what’s inside of him. When he brought me to the studio, he
says, ‘I have a surprise for you’,” she remembers. “I saw the beginnings of the
Domino painting and I was stunned into silence and I got teary-eyed.”
An expanded version of the show that first mounted
in Los Angeles last year, the collection is focused a great deal on the
American history of graffiti with a balance of East/West coast graffiti history
– in a way that may remind you of 2011’s “Art in the Streets” at LA MoCA. That
makes sense, considering Gastman co-curated that show as well.
“It’s both a historical and current look at where
the culture went and where it started and how widespread it is,” says
co-curator Evan Pricco, who perhaps provides a lynchpin view toward the big
name Street Artists who continued to push expectations in the 2000’s on streets
and in commercial galleries around the world. “With the space spread over two
floors it has a way better curatorial sense. I also think it does compete with
museums because it shows that this kind of work is on the same level. You kind
of have to present it in a way that feels very institutional and archival.”
So is Beyond the Streets
a graffiti show or a Street Art show or a contemporary art show? For artist
Kenny Scharf, who first gained attention during the heyday of Downtown
Manhattan’s art scene that benefitted from an interlude where rents were dirt
cheap and Wall Street was on a cocaine high, there is no need to categorize
what kind of art this is.
“You know I never liked labels or titles anyway so
even back in the early 80s I was pegged like ‘oh you’re a graffiti artist,’” he
says. “People feel the need to title and label so I’ll
let them to continue to do that but I don’t fit into any of them and I don’t
want to. I want to fit into all of them and none of them.”
Streets opened June 21 and continues through the summer.
Martha Cooper’s work as exhibited at Beyond The Streets New York
Beyond The Streets NYC is now open in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the general public and will run until August 2019. Click HERE for schedules, tickets and details.
Gastman’s Massive Graffiti and Street Art Show Arrives at Epicenter.
“I’m really excited to bring this show to New York,” says curator, graffiti historian and urban anthropologist Roger Gastman, “because the city plays such a pivotal role in the origin and evolution of the culture. The iconic images of covered subway cars made graffiti famous worldwide.”
He’s talking of course about “Beyond The Streets” the hybrid exhibition that he mounted in LA last year featuring the work of 150 who have proved to be pivotal to the evolution of a fifty year global people’s art movement that includes graffiti, street art, and urban contemporary art. Filling over 100,000 square feet of new space in Brooklyn, this two-floor cross-section survey will feature artworks by many of the same vandals, graffiti writers, Street Artists, and art activists who hit NYC streets, created dialogue with passersby, and were sometimes chased by the authorities. To see them showcased here is to recognize that there is not just one route to take – in fact there are many.
“We have an incredible roster of artists for New York,” Gastman tells us, “and a brand new space in Williamsburg that has a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline as our backdrop.” Notably the lineup includes artists whose work BSA has documented on the streets in this very same neighborhood over the past two decades, including Shepard Fairey, Faile, Swoon, Bast, Invader, Aiko, and others. Ironically the appearance of free-range Street Art in the neighborhood has been seriously diminished since that time.
The exhibition is one more verification that a significant portion of the scene is being widely recognized for its cultural contribution and value in the contemporary art canon – a significantly fluid scene fueled by discontent and a desire to short-circuit the established routes to audience appreciation. Like large survey shows elsewhere, the takeaway is the significant impact street culture and its tangential subcultures continues to have on the culture at large.
Gastman says the New York version of “Beyond The Streets” will take an
additional interest at the role of music and art activism on the street, along
with immersive installations, a tattoo parlor, a special Beastie Boys
installation with artifacts and ephemera, a new 30th Anniversary
Shepard Fairey project “Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent,” and large
scale works by Gorilla Girls, Futura, Cleon Peterson, and Takashi
More news coming on programming and events, but the important opening date to know right now is June 21st.
“All in all, it will make for a really special show this Summer,” says Gastman.
BEYOND THE STREETS TEAM
Curator: Roger Gastman
Co-Curators: Sacha Jenkins SHR, Evan Pricco, David CHINO Villorente
A-ONE, AIKO, Al Diaz, Alexis Ross, Alicia McCarthy, André Saraiva, Barry McGee, BAST, Beastie Boys, Bert Krak, Bill Barminski, Bill Daniel, BLADE, Broken Fingaz, Buddy Esquire, buZ blurr, Carlos Mare, Carl Weston, Cey Adams, C.R. Stecyk III, Charlie Ahearn, Chaz Bojórquez, Claudia Gold, Cleon Peterson, COCO 144, Conor Harrington, Corita Kent, Craig Costello, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Dan Witz, Dash Snow, DAZE, DEFER, Dennis Hopper, Dondi White, Doze Green, EARSNOT, Estevan Oriol, Fab 5 Freddy, FAILE, Faith XLVII, Felipe Pantone, FREEDOM, FUTURA 2000, Gajin Fujita, Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Guerrilla Girls, HAZE, Henry Chalfant, Herb Migdoll, Husk Mit Navn, INVADER, Jane Dickson, Jason REVOK, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, Jim Prigoff, John Ahearn, John Fekner, John Tsombikos, Joe Conzo, José Parlá, KATS, KC Ortiz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Kilroy Was Here, LADY PINK, LAZAR, LEE Quiñones, Lisa Kahane, MADSAKI, Maripol, Mark Gonzales, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martha Cooper, Matt Weber, Maya Hayuk, Michael Lawrence, MIKE 171, MISS 17, Mister CARTOON, Nina Chanel Abney, NOC 167, Pat Riot, Patrick Martinez, Paul Insect, POSE, PRAY, Rammellzee, Randall Harrington, RETNA, Richard Colman, Richard Hambleton, RIME, RISK, Ron English, Ruby Neri, SABER, Sam Friedman, SANESMITH, Sayre Gomez, Shepard Fairey, SJK 171, SLICK, SNAKE 1, SNIPE1, STAY HIGH 149, Stephen Powers, SWOON, Takashi Murakami, TAKI 183, TATS CRU, TENGAone, Tim Conlon, Timothy Curtis, Todd James, Trash Records, UGA, VHILS, and ZESER
The show is developed in partnership with Adidas and Perrier. Additional support provided by Modernica, Montana Colors, NPR, NTWRK, Twenty Five Kent and WNYC.
“There are some beautiful people out there that have left the world better off. I’m glad I could share some of them over Black History Month, one portrait at a time,” says Mel Waters when talking about his piece-a-day project in San Francisco’s Mission District in February. Funded from his own pocket, the 34 year old artist devised the project for himself and executed it on city walls (and one delivery truck) to pay tribute to famous African Americans during Black History Month.
“It struck me as a very interesting concept, particularly in an art culture that mostly lacks social content,” says graffiti and Street Art expert, photographer and famed historian Jim Prigoff, who first shared the story with us after he began spotting black and white aerosol portraits of folks like Rosa Parks, Amiri Baraka, and Gil Scott Heron popping up around town.
“Piquing my curiosity I found they were part of a series of 29 portraits painted one a day throughout the month, principally in the Mission District, but running from Chinatown on the north to the south. Given that Mel either walks or takes public transportation it became logistically challenging,” says Prigoff.
As he painted the portraits, Mr. Waters says his interest in these historical figures grew stronger and the project affected him in positive ways. “During the project, I did research nightly on who I was going to paint the next day. There are so many amazing stories and choosing who to paint was another challenge for me,” he says. “During my research I stumbled upon people I never heard of. That was an amazing experience in itself for me.”
It is an unusual story, as Prigoff observes, because so much of graffiti has been traditionally about getting one’s name up and marking territory and a large number of the new Street Artists appear to avoid political or socially themed work today. “In the beginning of modern Graffiti it was tags, then letters and characters,” Prigoff explains. “As ‘pieces’ were developed, few raised social concerns as the focus was principally on the writer’s names with various embellishments.”
Waters says the act of painting daily, and painting quickly, has tightened his game and he also learned how to be more efficient with his time. “It was a real challenge from the start, not only to pay for it, but also to find the time to paint daily while keeping up with my other obligations and to find locations where I could paint,” he says.
“I learned how to paint faster and I developed some new techniques. For example, I would roll out the face with bucket paint so I didn’t have to spend much time filling the face in with spray cans. Then I would just come in with the spray paint for shading… There was no time to create masterpieces, so I learned to let go of that need for perfection, too.”
With figures as varied as statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass to singer Josephine Baker, poet Langston Hughes, and Major League Baseball player Larry Doby, Waters gives San Franciscans a taste of the vastness of African American contributions to history. Additionally he says he felt encouraged on his self-elected one man sojourn from people on the street who stopped by to talk with him while he was working.
“There were nice reactions from the communities I painted in and good feedback on social media. I love celebrating my culture, which is African American and Filipino, through my art. I think it’s good to know about our past so we can use it to help us for the future.”
Mr. Prigoff tells us that he was elated to meet the artist in person and to get a tour of the paintings and to find a hopeful and positive project like this – especially in a Street Art scene that he has been documenting since its inception. “The use of public space to raise political awareness is meaningful to me and I hope it will be to others,” he says. “In this era of celebrated artists with major funding, Mel’s “street story” in creating a dynamic project is heartening and in the spirit of how this street art movement came to be.”
MEETING OF STYLES had a huge event celebrating the 28th anniversary of the seminal book Spraycan Art by Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff in September in San Francisco. Organized by the community organization Mission Art 415, a weekend long celebration took place in the Mission District that drew thousands of visitors and many artists and graffiti writers, and the two authors of the book. Included in the events was a lot of live painting, panels, black book sharing, autographing, sticker swapping and general re-connecting as old friends got together to talk about and discuss graffiti culture.
Today we are proud to present one of the book’s authors, Jim Prigoff as he gives BSA readers some insight into the events from his perspective as well as his analysis of the scene then and now.
The MEETING OF STYLES is an international concept whose main organization is based in Germany and their events are supported in cities and countries throughout the world including the Spraycan Art event that was held in San Francisco on the weekend of September 18-20 this year.
Hundreds of writers came, many from international countries like Mexico, France, the UAE (Dubai), Columbia, Costa Rica, Germany, and Guam. They painted long alleys in the Mission District including on Lilac, Osage, Cypress, Lucky, Orange, Horace and in the El Capitan parking lot. The event tied into the 28th Anniversary of Spraycan Art because it was the first book to show the emerging art form as it left the NYC subway tunnels and walls and traveled around the world. With over 200,000 copies sold over the years many writers have told Henry and I how the book changed their lives, and in some cases people have said that it even saved their lives.
Friday night there were awards and honors plus a panel discussion at the Mission Cultural Center as writers began to prep their walls and fill the air with the smell of spray paint. At the book signing, the graffiti writer Picasso came with a book he had signed in 1987 during the San Francisco introduction of the book. Carefully wrapped in a silk cloth, two new autographs were added.
The original spray cans used were developed for painting small areas with a broad spray and writers would rack caps from oven cleaners and other spraycan household products and adapt them to develop a different paint flow; even developing their own techniques to alter the paint flow. The paint was highly pressurized. At the time paint manufacturers recognized and were delighted with the expansion of their market, but for many years they pretended that this new demand did not exist.
Today many new brand names have entered the field with lower pressurized paint flow and specially developed paint content and are marketing directly to the writers. Caps of all varieties are marketed and sold and business is big.
After 40 years in the streets of the world, how could I not reflect on what is taking place today as contrasted with the days when literally thousands of scrawling tags confronted me as I traveled through the streets of NYC hunting painted murals and community art. What a journey! Who could have conceived that a relatively small band of basically untrained, creative youth could be the start of a worldwide art form that became the most important art developed in the last 40 years? Greatly aided by the Internet, where posts of new creations can now be seen instantly, literally millions of practitioners have gravitated to the medium in every corner of the world.
There was no going back. The traditional name letters and characters have morphed over the years into a much broader concept labeled Street Art and also today is known as Urban Art as multi-story buildings are commissioned to be painted using expensive lift apparatus, writers travel the world and their canvases sell for major dollars at art auctions in Paris and beyond. A look at BSA is clear evidence how the imagery created by the spraycan has basically changed to a whole new image focus.
Like the small trickle of water that begins giant rivers like the Amazon, the Nile and the Ganges, this art form called Graffiti Art, Spraycan Art, Aerosol Art, Street Art or Urban Art, has emerged from its very humble beginnings to become a giant tide that I believe will continue to develop and change in the coming years.
Will there still be some traditional letters and characters created? Yes, but the vision and creativity of youth will be the driver of the future.
Today we have the honor of photographer, author and lecturer Mr. James Prigoff sharing with BSA readers his images and observations about a new 8,000 square foot mural that went up in Oakland last month paying tribute to graffiti’s love of locomotives, Oakland’s history as a port town and ship builder, and a line out of Tupac Shakur’s “California Love”. A neighborhood project that aims to educate and beautify, two old school writers from The O named Vogue and BAM (Norman Chuck and Mike Tyau) gathered together some friends and interns to knock this mammoth one out. But enough from us, we’ll let Mr. Prigoff paint the scene for you.
I have been documenting Norman Vogue and Mike “BAM” Tyau’s Spraycan painting for thirty years. It was evident in the early days of West Coast “writing” that the two of them and their crews had very special talent.
Following their work over the years brought me to the Wrist Ship Supply building in West Oakland yesterday.
Modern Graffiti Art started on the East Coast with simple tags and evolved over the years until it became the most significant art form of the last forty years. In the evolution, part of the art form became Street Art and today is entitled Urban Art. The variety of imagery would fill endless books, light years away from what once were known as Graffiti Masterpieces.
The mural that these artists have created, “West Side is the Best Side”, is historically important for many reasons and I think it has an significant place among the art form’s historical images for these reasons;
It is technically very proficient as an example of how sophisticated the use of the spray can has become.
It pays tribute to a few of the most important writers to develop on the West Coast, particularly an iconic young R.I.P who wrote DREAM.
It is a classic in that it goes back to the roots of name writing and characters.
It celebrates the train writing that brightened the drab railroad cars and became a vehicle to send the “writer’s” name to distant cities.
Put it all together and they have created a very special piece of art, far more so than the average eye would perceive.
Sage coordinated the deal at first and got all the scissor/boom lifts for the artists to use and coordinated daily operations early on. Jase, King157, Sear & Done/TDK all painted their pieces within one day. Vogue painted his & Dream’s throwies all within one day also. The “Schmoe” piece was painted by Done on the caboose in memory of him since he passed away in a car accident back in July and he was a part of the TDK crew.
I’ve told Sage to help us file this at the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest train mural.
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We’re counting down the last 12 days of 2012 with Street Art photos chosen by BSA readers. Each one was nominated because it has special meaning to a reader or is simply a great photograph from 2012 that they think is great. Our sincere thanks to everyone who shared their favorite images.
Our sixth entry comes from photographer, author, and lecturer James Prigoff, acclaimed for his extensive documenting of many aerosol art movements since he began shooting them worldwide in the 1960s. Not only do we dig his entry into our 12 Photos of ’12 because of it’s diverse, colorful, and celebratory nature, we’re honored because Jim doesn’t usually do this sort of thing. “I have never sent a photo to any web site for publication and doubt that I will in the future. However, you fellows are doing such a diligent and excellent job in documenting the many forms of Graff and Street Art, that I decided to forward this very special piece of art,” he writes.
For his nomination, Prigoff chooses this 2012 piece by Apexer in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Some photographers may dive in for a detail shot of this vibrant work, but Jim says, “I believe in photographing the art in context to its location, not just a detail that could be anywhere. “
Our sincere thanks to him and and we wish a very Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating it today.
“Apex has been painting meticulously drawn, very colorful 3-D Images for a number of years. An early one appeared in my co-authored book ‘Walls of Heritage – Walls of Pride – History of African American murals’. His approach was quite different from the very early work of Daim and Ernie. Each year the work has shown increased sophistication. This image is by far the most unusual of his work thus far. It was exciting to discover it, ” says Prigoff.
To see a list of books authored by James Prigoff, click here.