Al Diaz

Dasic-Fernandez-and-Rubin415-street-art- Greenpoint-NYC

We recently had the opportunity to speak with writer and photographer Yoav Litvin about 2Create, his ongoing project and upcoming book on creative collaborations.

We love your recently launched 2Create Facebook Page and Group. Can you tell us something about the concept behind 2Create? What is its mission?

The aim of 2Create is to study and promote teamwork and fellowship as it showcases the art of collaboration. Folks tend to place far more emphasis on competition than on collaboration. But so much more can be accomplished if we work together.


Yes! We tend to glorify individualism, particularly in the West.

And my point is that when two people create, it is greater than two. 1 + 1 is not 2, but something more. The duo is the basic unit of a collective.  And we need to look at forming collectives as a means to solve our societal problems.


One of your initial projects, related to this larger one, is your upcoming book, 2Create: Art Collaborations in New York City.  Can you tell us something about it?

Yes. It will be released by Schiffer Publishing this fall. It showcases the works and processes of nine pairs of NYC graffiti and street artists. Each duo consists of two artists whose unique styles came together to create a larger-than-life work of street art in a NYC neighborhood. The book focuses on the backgrounds, techniques, and collaborative processes of the featured duos.


What spurred you to produce this particular book? What was your impetus behind it – in addition to promoting the concept of collaboration?

There were a number of factors. I was interested in expanding the documentation that I began in Outdoor Gallery New York City by getting to know more of my favorite artists – like Cekis and Rubin. But most of all, it was a project that enabled me to further develop myself as an artist by integrating my background in psychology, my passion for progressive politics and my respect and love for graffiti and street art in NYC.

jilly ballistic-al diaz

What were some of the challenges that you faced in the process?

Identifying artists who could work well together and produce first-rate artwork was the initial challenge. I also had to gain their confidence and access to their relationship so that they would speak freely about the process.  And some of the artists were quite shy – which was an additional challenge. And, then, for some of the works I had to secure walls, materials and more.


What’s ahead for 2Create?  Where are you going with it?

I want to continue documenting and interviewing duos that work together in a wide range of scenarios: visual arts, dance, music and more!


How can we become engaged with your project? Can we contribute to it?

You can Like the project on Facebook and share your own collabs and connect with others here. You can also follow it on Instagram and on Twitter.

It sounds great! And what a wonderful concept!


1. Dasic Fernandez with Rubin 415

2. Icy and Sot

3. Cekis with Cern


5. Jilly Ballistic with Al Diaz

6. Alice Mizrachi with Trap IF

7. Logo design by Dan Michman

Photos © Yoav LitvinYoav in conversation with Lois StavskyTara Murray and City-as-School intern Sol Raxlen

Note: 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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I recently stopped by 212 ARTS and had the opportunity to speak to Laura “Lulu” Reich who, along with Marc Leader, founded and directs the gallery.

I’ve heard great things about your current exhibit, Gumshoe: Red, White And Black, and I’m so glad I finally had the opportunity to visit this space! How long has 212 ARTS been here?

We’ve been here as 212 ARTS since this past October.

This space here at 240 East 4th Street is so perfect for a gallery. Why did you choose this particular neighborhood? And how were you so lucky to get this space?

I’m an East Village girl and I love everything about this neighborhood — its history, alternative culture and more. Yes, acquiring this space was mere luck! I had found out from the landlord that it was available.


What is the vision behind 212 ARTS

It is to give exposure in a gallery setting to urban artists, particularly those who work on the streets, as well as in their studios. It is also to educate folks about the artists in this scene. There are stories to tell, as in this current exhibit, Gumshoe: Red, White And Black.

Can you tell us something about this current exhibit?

It is Gumshoe‘s first solo exhibit in NYC. We chose to present this exhibit because we love Gumshoe’s work and her distinct female energy! And it seemed like the perfect exhibit for Valentine’s Day.


And what about its title, Red, White and Black?

Most of the pieces in the exhibit are red, white and black. The title is a play, of course, on the colors of the American flag, presenting the darker side of the American dream.

And the gum that always makes it way onto those glorious red Louboutin heels? What is that all about?

As we strive for perfection and sometimes almost reach it, we meet inevitable disaster! The gum is the metaphor for that. We get stuck along the way!


Oh, yes! There is a story to tell! Until when will folks be able to see this exhibit?

We are open Tuesday through Saturday 2:00 pm – 8:00 pm and on Sunday 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm.  You can also make an appointment to see it by contacting me at  Gumshoe‘s exhibit closes on Wednesday, February 17th.

What’s next?

Opening on the 18th is an exhibit featuring artworks by NYC graffiti legends. Among those showing are: Crash, Skeme and T-Kid.


I’m certainly looking forward to that! Good luck!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos feature Gumshoe‘s work; photo 4 of Gumshoe‘s installation also features Jily Ballistic and Al Diaz; photo 5 of  Gumshoe at work was captured awhile back on the Lower East Side.

Photo credits:1 & 4 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 5 Dani Reyes Mozeson and 3 Houda Lazrak

Note: Our highly acclaimed Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Veteran NYC graffiti writer Al Diaz will be a featured artist this Sunday, June 16th, in the exciting Writing On It All project at Governors Island. We recently met up with Al who spoke about his early years as a graff writer on the Lower East Side and his text-based graffiti, rooted in his early collaborations with the legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat.


When and where did you start getting up?

Back in 1972 on the LES. I was 13. I hit mostly trains and trucks back then.

What was your tag at the time?


Is that because you were bombing lots?

No. That term didn’t even exist at the time. My friends gave me that name because I used to panic and blow-up.

 The Sedate - SAMO© is Dead

What inspired you to get up back then?

My cousin was close-friends with Snake 1. And we spent a lot of time with him and other writers up at the Writers Corner 188 in the Heights.

Do you have a formal art education? 

As a kid, I took painting and drawing classes, and I went to the High School of Art and Design.

Have you ever been arrested for graffiti?

Once they picked me up and held me over night in Coney Island.  But, no, I was never arrested for graffiti.

Samo-As-a- Conglomerate- of Dormant-Genious...

Have you any early graff-related memories that stand out?

I remember when a truck driver caught me writing on a truck and beat the hell out of me, mangling my wire-framed glasses. It was probably not even his truck.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

They hated it. Back then we were considered juvenile delinquents.

Samo-As-an -End-2-Amos-'N-Andy 1984...

How did you transition into the word-play that you do today?

In 1977, I became friends with Basquiat. We met at City-as-School.  I introduced him to writing on walls. We came up with the term SAMO (Same Old Shit). That was the beginning. What Basquiat and I did was soon picked up by the SoHo Weekly News and the Village Voice.

Any thoughts about Jean Michel Basquiat’s commercial success?

That’s the art market. It is what it is.

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

Why not? I’m too old to be idealistic.


Who were some of your influences?

Jackson Pollock. I love his manic energy. Picasso, Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits.

Tell us something about what you are doing now.

In 2008, I started pulling WET PAINT signs off the subways, cutting them up and making anagrams from its letters. At first I did it just to entertain myself. But the project continued to evolve and three years later, in 2011, I began posting these redesigned, recycled signs back on the walls in the train stations.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

I’ve always loved words and language, and I’m continually becoming more adventurous in my wordplay. I now have a list of almost a thousand words made from WET PAINT!


What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

I see my art as social commentary. The masses are generally asleep. It is the responsibility of the artist to wake them up.

You can register here to participate in Al Diaz’s WET PAINT project this Sunday from 12-3pm in the interior of an early 20th century house that had served as senior officer housing when Governors Island was a military base.

All photos courtesy of the artist

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