Back Making Art, finally!
(in my studio, 1984)
Being an artist was my first serious aspiration. After painting graffiti on the streets and subways of New York City in the 70’s it clicked in my head one day while in the Medgar Evers college library that a lot of NY subway graffiti artist were taking there inspiration from the same sources as pop artist like Claes Oldenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. I thought, “graffiti art in many instances was on a par with any work in any museum of modern art”. I began pouring over art history books zig zagging through the entire history of man making art, from those wall paintings in pre-historic caves, which are a lot like graffiti to me, to Caravaggio, Duchamp, Dali, Rothko and Johns. Yes, I went in deep!
Glenn O’Brien, a writer and power player on the Downtown NY scene would advise me on how to make moves for my cause and get some media exposure. The Village Voice would soon run a short article with a photo of me in front of a handball court painted by Lee Quinones, one of the greatest NY Subway painters who I’d recently met back then and together we decided to find new ways of taking our work from the streets to another level and find a new audience.
Among the many who would call my home number printed in that Voice article was an Italian art dealer, Claudio Bruni, who ran a very prestigious gallery in Rome called Galleria La Medusa, and who also managed the estate of Giorgio De Chirico. He wanted to buy a series of paintings from Lee and myself and when he saw the work, he offered us a 2 person show at his gallery in November of that year, 1979.
With Lee Quinines at Claudio Bruni’s home, Rome Italy, 1979
The show in Rome was a success and soon after, Chris Stein and Debbie Harry from the pop group Blondie who become friends of mine while I became a regular part of Glenn O’Brien’s public access cable show,”TV Party”, purchased my first work on canvas I sold in America and they commissioned site specific work from Lee Quinones and myself for sets of their music videos. Around that time I’d become good friends with other young aspiring artist like Futura 2000, Dondi, Rammellzee, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat among others, all of us with similar ideas and aspirations. I looked at it as a cultural revolution on the verge and we were all united in leading the charge and helping each other by launching a coordinated attack on pop culture.
The catalog for our show in Rome.
This Cultural Revolution kicked off in the early 80’s and the effects of which still reverberate loudly around the world, 30 years later. Graffiti and now the street art movement is global and happening big time with artist like Banksy, J.R., Os Gemeos and Shepard Fairey doing big things including Shepard playing a big part in electing Barak Obama, the president of the United States who also listens to Hip Hop music, the sound track to this revolution and still the voice for global youth planet wide.
After numerous exhibitions of my work in Galleries and museums in the 80’s I grew wrestles with the solitude of me and that canvas, locked in a struggle to make magic. I decided to expand my audience through other mediums of expression and I moved into filmmaking with the experience I garnered being a producer of “Wild Style” and began directing music videos. I’d soon end up hosting the first nationally broadcast program to focus on Hip Hop music and culture called, YO! MTV Raps, in 1988.
Roaring into the 90’s as Hip Hop culture now became truly global largely thanks to YO! MTV Raps I’d direct dozens of music videos and be involved in several important feature films but when the question of would I ever make art again would pop up, I’d always say, “I will certainly do it again, when the time is right and I have a funky fresh idea.
That idea hit me a few years ago soon after a wall was discovered in a Soho building about to be renovated and turned into multi million dollar condos. The developer found a wall covered in graffiti tags and he had a suspicion that the graffiti could be important. So he reached out to some folks at the Guggenheim Museum who contacted some other experts who confirmed in a New York Times article that indeed many of the folks who’d tagged that wall had gone on to become well known artist and cultural figures and that even Jean-Michel Basquiat had left his mark.
The developer, Mike Namer, cleverly decided to make a big deal out of this discovery and soon I was contacted to appear at and host a huge show to showcase this art historical find and an exhibit was curated of works done in the 80’s by artist like Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Futura and myself.
The story of the wall begins in 1979 when I was trying to figure out the art world and I met an art critic named Edit Deak who lived in a huge loft at 151 Wooster street. She had just published an article in Art Forum magazine on the Three C’s, Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucci and Francesco Clemente, the later I would become good friends with. The three C’s were the hot young Italian painters and a part of the New-expressionist movement, a big thing in the art world at that time. Edit was very supportive of my ideas about graffiti art and Hip Hop music and one day while visiting her she said she’d love it if I put some tags on her wall. So I shook a spray can rattling that little steel ball, hit the nozzle a few times and drew an airplane in red spray paint, and wrote my name a few times. That’s how it all began.
The story on the discovery of the wall and the developers plans to spend thousands to have this graffiti “mural” properly removed from the brick wall and donated to a major museum was picked up by papers around the world and the opening event was attended by over a thousand eager art fans anxious to glimpse this wall and re-live a time when Soho was the center for modern art in the world.
A week after this event amazing at 151 Wooster Street an idea hit me, and I returned to making art with assistance from the amazing ladies at The Art Production Fund.
Now, I’m back!
(detail of new work, ink and crystals on canvas)
Peep this NYTimes piece & click the red Sisley art project link to see the site and my jacket.
Here with Shepard Fairey & Jeffrey Deitch.