All posts tagged: Street Art Book

“Born In The Bronx” Expanded: Joe Conzo’s Intuitive Eye on Early Hip Hop

“Born In The Bronx” Expanded: Joe Conzo’s Intuitive Eye on Early Hip Hop

Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop

Yes, Yes, Y’all, it’s been a decade since this volume, “Born in the Bronx,” was released. The images here by photographer Joe Conzo seem even more deeply soaked in the amber light of early Hip Hop culture from the late 1970s and early 80s, now taking on a deepened sense of the historical.

As the city and the original players of this story have evolved through the decades that followed the nascent Hip Hop era, it’s clearer than ever that this was nothing less than a full-force eruption, a revelation that cracked and shook and rocket-fueled an entire culture. Thanks to Conzo it was captured and preserved, not likely to be repeated.

The book is masterfully edited by Johan Kugelberg, the true visionary of this project, who established and has overseen the growth of a collection of memorabilia and history for the Hip Hop History Archive at Cornell University – which now boasts a quarter million items. A modestly thick hardcover, it’s rich in its choices. Posters, handbills, album covers, original lyrics by performers, stunning portraits backstage, on stage, on the mike, and on the street; this is a world you can immerse yourself into quickly and without pretension.

Born in the Bronx is full of gems, insider observations, interviews, and personal hand-drawn artworks. One critical cornerstone is a timeline from Jeff Chang that begins in 1963 as the boastful but failed Urban Planner Robert Moses constructed the Cross Bronx Expressway – painfully destroying and displacing people and families, severing culturally significant, vibrant areas of the borough and producing a dangerous malaise.

An ensuing blight only fueled the “white flight” from the city, leaving a growing number of dispossessed black and brown neighborhoods that suffered for decades afterward.  His timeline ends in 1986 with Run DMC going platinum and a drug war ramping up to see a booming prison population. With these events as bookends, you know the music, art, dance, fashion, and performance culture that grew out of the Boogie Down was going to be commanding and resilient.

Afrika Baambatta recounts a foreword to Miss Rosen, LL Kool J does a brief “kick-off,” the Cold Crush Brothers hit the stage, and the packed crowd is enthralled. To get the full story about how to document the scene, check out Joe Conzo’s account told to Miss Rosen – the story of a shy chubby boy – the son and grandson of community activists who became his high school’s resident photographer and who parlayed subsequent connections into an exploration of music, performance, and the burgeoning Hip Hop scene at the moment it was happening.

For a richly rendered graffiti context, there is a fully realized recounting of the people and the scenes that informed it in an essay by Carlos MARE 139 Rodriguez called “What You Write?” With it, you get a true sense of a an exciting merging of music, aesthetics, society, street, creativity, and community.

The book closes with a very personal but pertinent poem, it’s short verses ducking and spinning and swaggering with pride at what the Bronx gave birth to; a global culture that continues to resonate worldwide and rock the bells.

“No ends could be made
For the price we would pay
Economically strapped
No time for a nap

‘Cause this is about to go down

The boogie down was burning
And my people yearning
Just to get a piece of the pie
My mind’s eye

Was as big as the sky”

~Luis Cendeno AKA DJ Disco Wiz, from “The Land Before the Rhyme”

BORN IN THE BRONX: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop. Expanded edition published in 2020 by 1xRUN with support from ROCK THE BELLS & BEYOND THE STREETS. Detroit, MI. 2020.

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Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore

A welcome and necessary addition to any graffiti academic’s library comes Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, carefully documented by Freddy Alva. A thorough recounting of the birth and growth of graffiti through the lense of punk and hardcore scenes after 1980, Alva presents a parallel evolution of a scene as it was interpreted by a largely white constituency of rockers, anarchists, and rebels who grew up in and around New York at that time.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.

Alva is careful to give due to the graffiti scene that is more often identified as the roots of this practice of urban mark making; the hip-hop culture of primarily black and latino youth during the 1960s and 1970s. As the neoliberal corporate capitalists took over Wall Street and the Reagan White House, a different sort of graffiti writer was often showing up on the street – and often on stage as part of a hardcore band.  

Mr. Alva says that early hardcore bands like Frontline “became an important foundation to the eventual hardcore and graffiti synthesis that would come to envelop the scene.”  It makes sense since the band featured graff writers including HYPER, RACE, ME62, and NOAH.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018

It’s an infrequently told history related in great detail following a timeline which identifies the “golden age” of this subcultural hybrid as 1985-1995. Packed full of extensive interviews with writers and essays by experts on the scene like Sacha Jenkins, it summons a gravel-voiced city cinema vérité flavor to a rugged unvarnished history and sometimes conflicting perspectives.

The series of interviews profile a wide number of individuals who are looking back on a common graff writing history; sometimes imparting a certain nostalgic haze to their stories. Their common path leads them to espouse philosophies and worldviews that are somehow universally rooted in struggle, but the insights and individual outcomes are anything but homogeneous. But almost all of them dislike or hate Street Art, that’s nearly universal.

You may not have been there, but you may feel like you were; its complete with amateur photography, a good selection of zines, black book works, ephemera, and some serious info-graphics on crews, members, and neighborhoods where they originated from (shoutout to designer Orlando Arce). The thick tome even offers a selection of relevant tattoo photos.

On arms.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018

With a newly released second edition after only one year on the bookshelves, this one captures a big name that is as elusive as it is heralded by New York hardcore graffiti fans, REVS. Also a member of a hardcore band named Adam 12, the writer gives a great deal of insight into his path, ethos and career (see the first online publishing of a portion of this interview on BSA).

Tony Rettman, author of NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 gives praise to Alva for chronicling a scene that not many have paid sufficient due to and which contributed in a large way that clearly illustrates the interstitial relationships of New York’s various graffiti cultures.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.

“The correlation between graffiti culture and punk rock is something solely concentrated to New York and it’s surrounding boroughs,” Rettman writes. “Freddy Alva was there to absorb it all in real time and now he gives us the clear-cut history of the whole deal it all its grim and gritty glory.”

“I have had the good fortune of maintaining decades-long friendships with some of the people featured in these pages; the writers that played in bands, the writers that represented the scene, the graffiti crews that were composed of hardcore fans, the photographers of classic train pieces, the artists inspired by hardcore iconography, the tattooists that incorporated this imagery in their work… I have always wanted to give these voices an outlet to be heard and to be celebrated,” Alva writes.

With Urban Styles, he has.

Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.
Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.
Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.
Freddy Alva. “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore”. Second Edition. Radio Raheem, 2018.

*Banner poem excerpt by Chaka Malik, 2017

To purchase this book please click on the link below:

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Icy & Sot “Let Her Be Free” Book Launch|Art Exhibition (Manhattan, NYC)

Icy & Sot “Let Her Be Free” Book Launch|Art Exhibition (Manhattan, NYC)

“We first met Icy and Sot the summer they arrived in New York. Their name was already preceding them on the Internet because even while still in Iran, they had developed a network of friends and collectors who had helped them to show their art in Europe. Images of their work had already caught our eye. We were lucky to be the first to interview them here.

That is how the friendship began–as immigrants to New York ourselves, we had a good feeling about them because they exhibited the right signs for success here. We’ve seen what sort of steely core you need to have internally to survive in this city and what alchemy of dreams, determination, and luck one will need to succeed as artists. We’ve watched many hopefuls come and go, feeling chewed up or put off by the love/ hate relationship most people have with this city. From the beginning, Icy and Sot appeared to have what it would take to persevere. Later we learned that they didn’t really have any other option.” – Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo in “Let Her Be Free”

BSA is proud to tell you of this new book, the first monograph of Iranian Street Art brothers ICY & SOT, which we dedicated many hours of design, editing, interviewing, and writing to, in addition to contributing photographs by Jaime Rojo. Along with the brothers and book designer Cassandra Brinen, we spent many hours in New York meetings in apartments and cafes sorting through images and stories to find the narrative and the flow of the pages and chapters (even laying all the pages across a living room floor), all the time wondering if we could finish it in time and to the quality level and taste level everyone was looking for.

We’re pretty happy with how it turned out and we hope to meet a lot of New Yorkers this Saturday for the books official debut! Luckily, there will be plenty of brand new stencil pieces for you to see in a pop-up exhibition as well.

Published by Lebowski Publishing under the guidance and vision of owner Oscar Van Gelderen and with a forward by Jess X. Chen, “Let Her Be Free” tells the story of the first 10 years of ICY & SOT working on the street, first in their hometown Tabriz, then Tehran, then moving to Brooklyn, New York to start and continue their odyssey. You don’t find artists who are as driven and focused and willing to work like this very often, nor those who have personal and political convictions and who are using their work to express them.

We were lucky to have enough photos that charted their early years and could tell their story, and of course it helps that they are good documentors as well – a lesson for all artists! As they continue to grow professionally and personally, we look forward to them challenging us and developing their craft even further.

We’re all looking forward to meeting you this weekend – the guys will be there signing books – and if you cannot make it we hope you’ll have time to look at the book the next time you are in a bookstore or library.

Our special thanks to editor Roel van Diepen for his kind and patient expertise.


Icy & Sot “Let Her Be Free” Lebowski Publishers. Amsterdam 2016

We visited Icy & Sot at their Brooklyn studio while they were busy at work getting ready for the exhibition that accompanies the book launch and asked them a few questions and took photos of some the pieces that will be on view and and available to purchase. The show will be a retrospective in miniature – as most of the pieces on view were created as a compilation of their greatest hits throughout their very short career.


Icy & Sot. Sasan Sasan at their studio in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Icy & Sot (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Icy & Sot (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Icy & Sot (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Icy & Sot invite you to attend the launch of “Let Her Be Free” and the opening of the art show this Saturday, July 23rd. Click HERE for full details.

Icy & Sot “Let Her Be Free” Lebowski Publishers. Amsterdam 2016


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MIKE MAKATRON : In 10 Cities and Multiple Worlds

MIKE MAKATRON : In 10 Cities and Multiple Worlds

Wanderer Mike Makatron has been spending his young manhood traveling the globe and painting walls and experimenting with styles of art ranging from fantasy illustration to loose and leafy botanicals, with symbols of indigenous spirits, psychedelic mushrooms and plenty of the time honored ying/yang.

A bit of an untethered dude’s dude, the Australian Makatron hit 10 cities and partied and sported his way through them all over the period of a decade or so, painting voluptuous lips, overflowing ashtrays, lush swamps, and multi-storied death burgers; the latter an allusion to what the intro writer Jeremy Taylor refers to as “a ‘McDonaldized’ world” and “addiction, shitty diets, rampant capitalism, psychadelics, (and) even Aboriginal Sovereignty.”


Naturally there is also the hetero kama sutra burger mural spilling with booty and boobs, layered with unclad couples in cozy positions of coital bliss. Many familiar celestial and vaguely sensual/sexual/reproductive motifs are represented, along with tentacled or winged creatures and skulls piled into scenes of space and barren moonscapes. Makatron goes into the wild and everywhere his heart leads; freewheeling in style and subject matter is his norm.


The tightest work is near the end of this travelogue with the artists fine art canvasses – here suddenly tightened and focused, unreal scenes of serenity are deftly rendered in warm detail. A quieted mind is free to wander here and suddenly these otherworldly scenarios begin to appear as though they may be real.





Mike Makatron – In Ten Cities. Trojan Press. Melbourne, Australia. 2015 (photos © Jaime Rojo)


Mike Makatron – In Ten Cities published by Trojan Press. Melbourne, Australia 2015. Click HERE for more info about the artist and the book.

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Ella & Pitr Draw You Their Diary of World Travels in “Baiser D’Encre”

Ella & Pitr Draw You Their Diary of World Travels in “Baiser D’Encre”

Who knew that babies could use so many diapers! What to do when you are in a foreign city and both of you are sick as dogs? Also, we may need a crane to help us finish the world’s largest roof mural.

These considerations are things you draw into your travelogue diary when you are Ella & Pitr, the painters of enormous kings, pilots, and couples cuddled in bed on fields, rooftops, and beaches around the world.


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre” Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The French street art couple are never very far from home in their thoughts, even when scoring paint for an enormous multi-roof portrait or flying in a helicopter over top of it – especially when they have a toddler and an infant waiting back at the hotel or at their grandparents’ house in France.

This new book “Baiser D’Encre” (Kiss Ink) captures the drawings Ella & Pitr make at restaurants, bus stops, hotel rooms, and while waiting for a plane – little entertaining sketches from the road with entire stories attached to them that they can share with their kids and family.


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre” Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Here is a city we went to, these are odd people whom we met, this is Mommy coughing uncontrollably and Daddy ready to vomit.

This hand-drawn diary contains more information about personal and professional relationships, relative personalities, attachments to objects, struggles in life and their ability to lighten a rotten situation with humor than a written diary could.


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre” Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Doodles, daydreams, depictions of everyday circumstances, and collaboratively drawn pieces with their kids tell the reader about their interconnected emotions and imaginings in way that thousands of words may fall short.

Encompassing roughly a year of their life, Ella & Pitr give you the good, the bad, and the option to laugh at it all.


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre” Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre” Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre” Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ella & Pitr “Basier D’Encre”. Les Editions Papiers Peintres. France. November 2015. To order this book click HERE

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Tour Paris 13 : Fluorescent & Towering Show Book

Tour Paris 13 : Fluorescent & Towering Show Book

Another book to tell you about today! Remember when BSA took you to Paris that time and we skipped the line and went into all the floors of this soon to be demolished building?

“The numbers are astounding; 105 artists, 9 floors, 36 apartments, 30,000 visitors.

One hour.

That is how much time Street Art enthusiast Spencer Elzey had to himself inside the largest gallery of Street Artists and graffiti artists ever assembled specifically to transform a building for a public show. As he looked out a window to see the snaking lines of Parisians and tourists restlessly waiting to get in, he couldn’t believe his luck to be able to walk through the exhibit by himself and get off some clear shots before the throng hit.”

That is how we described it in November 2013 when Spencer took us on a whirlwind tour of TOUR 13.


Tour Paris 13 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Published last month this towering book with the page edges sprayed neon orange was released by Mehdi Ben Cheikh in French and English to commemorate the event, and seeing the installations this way is going to make you wish the place wasn’t destroyed. 500 new photos previously unpublished allows you to see the show as you travel from the cellar to the top floors.

You may wish you had more background on the artists and the context and clearly not all of the artistry is of similar quality but you will be satiated by the images and thankful that they were recorded during their brief duration. Published by Editions Albin Michel, in partnership with the Itinerrance Gallery, this show will continue to soar long after the dust has settled.


Entes . Tour Paris 13 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Inti . Tour Paris 13 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Ethos .Tour Paris 13 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Seth .Tour Paris 13 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Moneyless .Tour Paris 13 (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Artists included in the Tour Paris 13 project:



Click HERE to read BSA’s coverage of this project before the building was demolished.

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