Trains

Tracy168-graffiti-Bushwick-Collective-NYC

With his outstanding sense of color, style and design, Tracy 168 achieved legendary status early on in the most significant art movement of our time. The personification of wild style and the first writer to hit the subways with cartoon characters, the prolific artist wielded tremendous influence. On reviewing Tracy 168‘s work on exhibit back in 1999, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times art critic Holland Cotter had the following to say: “Tracy offers an astounding variety of styles, from 3-D to space-age spiky to Cubistic. He floats out words on cushions of colors, and ties them up in unreadable knots, festooned with tendril-like flourishes.”

When did you first get up?

I first got up with a crayon on a wall in my house when I was four years old. I remember drawing a tortoise and a hare. I lived across from the Bronx Zoo, and I always heard the sounds of animals from my window.

What about the streets? When did you first hit the streets? And the trains? When did you first hit them?

In 1969 when the Mets won the World Series, I first hit the streets. And I tagged my first train the same year. I was 11.

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Tracy-flint-photo

What inspired you to do so?

I loved the sense of adventure…the adrenalin rush. I envisioned myself as a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. And I loved seeing my name on the trains.

Had you any favorite spots?

I was all-city, and I loved painting anywhere with people whom I loved. But my favorite spots were New Lots Avenue and Utica Avenue on the IRT line in Brooklyn. Any train I painted there would run right away, and so I didn’t have to hang around too long to see my piece pass by.

tracy168-cartoon-on-subway-train

What about crews? Did you get up with any crews?

I founded the Wanted crew. It was one of the largest crews ever, and just about anybody who was anybody of worth was in that crew. It represented Wild Style.

Had you any early role models or inspirations?

My mother, my grandfather, Jack StewartMichael Stewart… Michael Stewart gave his life so that others would live. After his death in 1983 — and the trials and investigations that ensued — the police were somewhat afraid of treating writers so brutally.  We are the true prophets…

Any particular risky ventures stand out?

I was always wild, always doing dangerous things.

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How did you support yourself back in the day? What was your source of income?

In the late 70’s, I began to create all kinds of art-related jobs for myself — painting storefronts, memorial walls, murals… I was the first writer to do that kind of thing. I also worked in an advertising agency. Jack Stewart taught me about copyrights and trademarks. He was a true mentor. He told me real stories — not the ones from Fantasy Island.

Your work has been shown in all kinds of settings across the globe!

Yes!  I’ve been in museums and galleries all over the world. I was always breaking boundaries, Here in NYC my work has been exhibited in dozens of spaces including the New York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum and NYU.

I remember seeing your work at the Brooklyn Museum back in 2006.

Yeah! When I came by, I made some adjustments to my canvas with a paintbrush. That didn’t go over well with the security guards. They got the curator of the exhibit involved, who insisted that I couldn’t change anything, since it had already been photographed for their catalog.

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Did you have a formal art education?

My education is hands-on.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?

It can be used as a tool — if you know how to read the truth.

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What’s your ideal working environment?

Anywhere outdoors. Even when I paint canvases, I like to paint outside.

What inspires you these days?

My main inspiration is to express myself and grow as an artist in a world that is reluctant to see me as one.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Every culture. NYC is a melting pot, and I’m in the center of it painting.

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Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

I’m not done until I’m happy. As long as I’m alive, I can improve on it. But it must have meaning and exude positivity. Otherwise, why bother?

A few years back you were reported dead. What was that all about?

If I hadn’t died then, I wouldn’t be alive now. It had to happen.  When I vanished, I saw the world going in the wrong direction. This art form can save it.

How has your work evolved in the last few years?

It’s constantly evolving.  This movement is to art like jazz is to music. It’s a fusion of styles and cultures that knows no boundaries. It is a universal language. And the message of Wild Style is “Be yourself. Find out what your talent is and get good at it.” I love everyone, but I will not surrender the truth and lose my integrity.

Photos: 1, 6-8 Lois Stavsky; 2, 4 & 5 courtesy of the artist; 3 Flint Gennariinterview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: Photos 7 & 8 were captured from Tracy’s current black book; special thanks to Flint for the introduction!

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Flip-graffiti-pioneer-at-Centre-fuge

A pioneer of the graffiti movement, Charles Henry aka FLIP One was immortalized in Flint Gennari’s classic photo of him tagging a Coney Island-bound train over 40 years ago. And this past spring the now-iconic photo made its way onto a stencil fashioned by Balu for the Centre-fuge Public Art Project. I met up with the artist — now an LA-based Emmy award-winning cinematographer — while he was visiting NYC last month.

When and where did you first get up?

It was back in 1974 in Propsect Park, Brooklyn. I was 15.

What inspired you to?

Flint’s writings were everywhere in my neighborhood. He was my main inspiration. He also got me into photography. Other writers such as Spin, Coco 144 and Mico also influenced me. And I loved the adrenalin rush hitting the trains late nights and the little bit of fame watching my name go by.

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What was your preferred surface back then?

The Franklin Avenue shuttle.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They were not happy. My dad used to work for the MTA.

Do you have any specific graffiti memory that stands out?

I saw once — and only once — an LL Cool J top to bottom while I was riding the train to school. I will never forget that!

Flip-tags-graffiti

Did you work alone or did you collaborate with others?

I painted with the Ex Vandals and the Soul Stoned Brothers (SSB).  But I generally preferred working alone, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

What was the riskiest thing you ever did?

Entering the 7 yard with Flint, Dime 139 and Asp across from Shea Stadium during a playoff game in the World Series. Luckily, the cops — who were supposed to be watching the yard — were too busy watching the game on their little black and white TV to pay attention to us! And so we managed to get in and out and do our thing in broad daylight without anyone noticing.

Has your work ever been exhibited?

Yes, my work has appeared in Flint Gennari’s photos in several galleries and museums. My small trains have been exhibited in galleries in LA.

flint-and-balu

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti into galleries?

I think it’s great! It suggests that what we did has meaning.

What about the increasing engagement of the corporate world in the graffiti subculture?

I used to hate it, but it doesn’t bother me any more. Writers risked getting arrested, maimed — and more — for what they did. They should be paid!

Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

It’s not an issue. My favorite artists tend to blur the line between both: They include: El MacRetna, ObeyMan One and Revok.

Flint-Flip-AimSSB

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in it all?

I love it! I get to see the work of people I used to war against!

Any thoughts as to why the Europeans are more open to graffiti than most Americans are?

I haven’t really thought about it, but maybe it’s because they place a higher value on self-expression.

And there’s probably no art form more expressive art than graffiti!

Photo credits: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2 Flint Gennari; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo 3  features Balu to the right of Flip One and the last photo features Flint to the left and George Colon aka AIM SSB to the right of Flip One

Note: Jan Arnold, the artist’s wife, is in the process of completing a documentary about Flip One’s life. Be sure to check its Facebook page here for some great photos and clips!

Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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A&D-subway-design-winne

This past Thursday evening, the High School of Art & Design hosted a reception, exhibition and panel discussion honoring 20 student winners of its first A&D Subway Car Design Competition.  Soon after the event, I had the opportunity to speak to Art & Design alumnus and Old School graffiti writer George Colon aka AIM, who had invited us to this celebration of our favorite art form.

George-Colon-Signs

Thursday evening’s event was wonderful.  We loved the way it brought so many folks – students, alumni, faculty, parents, artists and us graffiti aficionados — together. Whose idea was it?

Two years ago, I presented the idea of a panel discussion on the theme of graffiti art to the school’s administration. Art & Design seemed like the ideal site to host such a symposium, since so many famed writers are A&D alumni.  The faculty, though, was hesitant at the time to engage in a graffiti-related event. They were afraid, I assume, of negative reprisals.

Art-and-Design-subway-car-competition

How, then, did last week’s amazing event happen?  What caused the change? Why was the school suddenly receptive? 

There were several factors. First, there was a change in the administration. The new principal is open to new ideas and programs that he feels are in the students’ interests.  And I connected with A&D alumnus, George Alonso, who was in touch with Klim Kozinevich — the designer of the All City Style Blank NYC Subway Cars. It was George’s idea that a few of us alumni offer the students a workshop in designing subway cars. Alumnus Klim Kozinevich donated the All City Style Blank NYC Subway Cars and everything else followed.

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What was your original inspiration behind this? What spurred you to see it through?

I felt that I wanted to give back. It was also an opportunity to educate folks about a global art form that has strong roots in this particular school.

Kenji-Art-and-Design

The panel discussion was certainly informative. George Alonso was the perfect moderator, and you, along with Spar One and Kenji Takabayashi, had much to offer.  The audience was totally engaged. Why do you suppose there seems to be so much interest these days in graffiti, particularly from the perspective of veteran writers?

As graffiti is increasingly embraced by professionals and recognized as a legitimate art form, it is more likely to spur the interest of folks who would ordinarily dismiss it.

joe-russo-tags -at-A-and-D

Yes! Once an art form becomes the subject of museum retrospectives, it is difficult to relegate it to mere vandalism! What’s ahead for you?

We are planning to continue collaborating with Art & Design. We would like to make the A&D Subway Car Design Competition an annual event, and we’d love to conduct graffiti–inspired design workshops in other educational settings.

That would be great! Good luck! 

Images

1. First-place winner, James Dundon (design — center top)

2. George Colon aka AIM SSB signing books presented to students

3. Trains designed by A&D alumni: Kenji TakabayashiGeorge Colon aka AIM, SexerSpar One and Flint

4. Spar One with black book in hand

5. Kenji Takabayashi

6. Joe Russo

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Tara Murray; 2 Todd Atkinson; 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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Chris-daze-ellis-view-to-the-other-side

The City Is My Muse, featuring new works, along with older paintings and memorabilia, by the legendary Chris “Daze” Ellis, opened this past month at the  Museum of the City of New York.  Curated by Sean Corcoran, the paintings on exhibit — depicting NYC’s streets, subways, landmarks and ordinary folks — exude an expressive, soulful energy. Here are a few more:

Cyclone Drop

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The 7 Yard

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Queensborough Plaza

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Daze with his painting Whitlock Avenue

Chris-Ellis Daze-with-painting

Tomorrow evening — December 8 — at 6:30 pm, Daze will be joined by Jane Dickson and Lee Quinones in a discussion about how New York City’s environment, culture and daily life have inspired their work. Curator Sean Corcoran will moderate the panel. Use Code ART1 for discount tickets here.

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The Museum of the City of New York is located at 1220 5th Avenue.

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Tara Murray

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As featured earlier this year in the New York Times, Nic 707’s Instafame Phantom Art movement continues to bring dozens of artists — from Old School writers to contemporary painters — back into NYC subway trains. Here are a few recently-captured images:

The legendary Skeme of Style Wars fame

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Gear One

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Nic 707

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Ivory

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The legendary Taki 183

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Michael Cuomo

michael-Cuomo-abstract-subway-art

Kingbee — with fragment of Michael Cuomo on left

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Misha Tyutyunik

M-Dot-subway-art

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Featured in this past Monday’s New York Times, Nic 707’s ingenious Instafame Phantom Art project continues to transform NYC subway cars into instant galleries. These are some images I captured on a recent ride from Yankee Stadium to Coney Island:

The legendary TAKI 183

Taki 183

Kingbee

Kingbee

Veteran graffiti writer Snake 1

snake-subway-art

Praxis 

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Nic 707

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Sketch

Sketch

Graffiti legend T-Kid

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Brian M Convery

Brian-Convery-subway-art

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Nic 707‘s InstaFame Phantom Art continues to share a range of art — from tags by legendary writers to works by global artists — with NYC subway riders. Here are some images captured on a recent ride from East Tremont in the Bronx to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

Veteran UK graffiti writer, Pulse

Pulse

Bogota native Praxis

Praxis

The legendary TAKI 183

Taki 183

Praxis

Praxis

Nic 707

Nic707

Graffiti pioneer Skeme of Style Wars fame

skeme

Mulit-media artist Michael Cuomo 

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Nic 707

Nic707

Michael Cuomo

Michael-Cuomo

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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"subway graffiti"

Moving Murals: Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive, a mosaic of 850 wall images of subway graffiti photographed by Chalfant — along with a series of Martha Cooper’s artist portraits — continues through this Thursday, December 18 at 4pm.  A homage to the boundless creativity of the graffiti artists whose talents and passions paved the way to the global street art movement, Moving Murals is the first exhibit to grace the City Lore Gallery at 56 East 1st Street.

Another close-up from Henry Chalfant collage, featuring the legendary Iz the Wiz

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Martha Cooper’s portraits

"Martha Cooper Photography"

Including such contemporaries as Lady Aiko (top left)

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And next Saturday, December 20, 12pm – 6pm, you will have the opportunity to take home one of Henry Chalfant’s graffiti train prints as City Lore will be offering Chalfant’s train photographs from the Moving Murals exhibit with each membership purchased. Membership begins at $35. Hot cider and a variety of gifts by local NYC artists will also be available for sale at the City Lore Store

City-Lore

Moving-Murals-City-Lore

Final photo courtesy of City Lore; photos of Henry Chalfant’s installation by Lois Stavsky; of Martha Cooper’s by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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The ingenious InstaFame Phantom Art, conceived and curated by Nic 707, continues to bring old school writers — along with newer ones from NYC and beyond — back to the trains.  Here are a few images captured on recent rides:

Paulie Nassar and the legendary TAKI 183  — with background by Nic 707

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Anjl

Anji-graffiti-1-train

Nic 707

Nic-707

Praxis

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Shiro 

Shiro

Nic 707 and TAKI 183

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TAKI 183 with background by Nic 707

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Photo credits: 1 & 7, City-as-School intern Tyler Flores; 2 – 6, Lois Stavsky; 8, Nic 707

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Nic707

The brainchild of veteran graffiti writer Nic707,  InstaFame Phantom Art continues to bring graffiti back to NYC trains — with artists from across the globe now contributing to this ingenious project. Here are a few images of artworks captured on the 1 and 6 lines:

The legendary Kingbee

KingBee

British graffiti pioneer Pulse

Pulse

Bronx native Yes One

Yes-one-graffiti-subway-NYC

Bogota-based stencil artist Praxis

Praxis

Style-master Meres — of 5Pointz fame

Meres

Old School writer Tony164

Tony164

And new from Nic707

Nic707-2014-graffiti

Photos by Lois Stavsky 

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