Washington Heights

2-new-and-dia-msk-graffiti-writers

I met up with several members of the East Coast – and original – MSK crew while they were painting up in Inwood earlier this year. Among the writers I spoke to were: Kister, its current president; Dia One, MSK’s president back in the 80’s and its legendary former vice president, 2 New. (Note: pictured above is 2 New to the left of Dia One).

When was MSK first founded? And by whom?

It was founded in 1982 by MADE and WASE, along with a few other writers who attended IS 52 — right here in Inwood.

frankizm-msk-action-graffiti-nyc

Which trains was MSK hitting back in the day?

Any one nearby – the 1 train, the A, the AA, the C, the CC, the RR and sometimes the D and B.

How were the original MSK crew members regarded back then?

All of us growing up in the Heights and here in Inwood had enormous respect for them.  Everyone knew them and looked up to them.

dia-msk-graffiti-nyc

Can you give us a sense of what it was like hitting the trains back then?

We followed a routine. Five or six of us would gather in a friend’s house.  We’d design an outline. Then we’d rack the paint from a local hardware store. And once we had the paint, we’d pick a yard and sneak in.

And once you got into the yard?

We had to worry about gangs, dogs, cops and stepping on the 3rd rail.  Success was getting out alive and taking a photo.

kron-graffiti-msk-nyc

Do any particular memories stand out?

When three young MSK guys went to the 145th Street lay-ups and had their cans taken away by members of Jon One’s crew.  We had to retaliate, and we ended up eventually beating the crap out of two of them. The drama only continued, and eventually Jon One left NYC for Paris.

As the train era ended in the late 80’s, what surfaces were MSK’s second and third generation hitting?

Mostly highways, rooftops and handball courts.  And because we had to be fast, we mostly did bombs and throw-ups. We didn’t have time for pieces – except for occasional ones on handball courts.

msk-graffiti-mural-nyc

Here you have members of all three generations of MSK working together – painting on a legal wall.

Yes, we do it because it’s fun. It’s our way of celebrating our culture.

And how does painting on a legal spot like this one differ from working illegally?

On a legal space like this, we can take our time and make as many changes as we want as we work. But when we paint on walls like these, we can’t get the adrenalin rush that comes with working illegally. It’s not the same — nowhere close! And we miss it!

Images

1. Dia One and 2 New against mural by Frankizm

2. Frankizm at work on tribute mural to 2 New

3. Dia One at work at night

4. Kron

5. Dia One  — memorial wall first painted in 1992 and redone, at the family’s request, in 2013 — with Flite, Frankizm, Kister, Cel & Nest

Interview & photos by Lois Stavsky

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"Queen Andrea"

The once drab and dull 900-foot long tunnel connecting Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue at the 191st Street subway station is now a wondrous canvas featuring bright and bold graffiti and fine art.  While visiting it last week, we had the opportunity to speak to Jessie and Katey, the Baltimore-based duo, who — along with NYC-based artists, Queen Andrea, RRobots, Cekis and Cope2 — were selected to paint murals along the tunnel.

Jessie-and-Katey-artists

We love the way you are beautifying this Upper Manhattan tunnel. How did you two first meet? And how did you two — Baltimore-based artists —  become involved in this NYC project?

We met when we were both students at MICA: Maryland Institute College of Art. And about four years ago, we started painting together. We’ve both lived in New York, and when we heard about the Department of Transportation‘s open call for artists who specialize in painting large scale murals, we applied.

Jessie-katey-abstract art-DOT

Jessie-and-katey-abstract-art-mural-with-passerby-DOT

What aspect of the project most appealed to you?

We loved the idea of returning to NYC to paint such a huge, awesome space.

Queen-Andrea-Live-Your-Dreans-DOT-NYC

R-Robot-tunnel-DOT-NYC

What was it like working with the other muralists on this project? 

It was great, and getting to know them all was wonderful.

Cekis-art-DOT-with-skateboard

Cekis-art-mural-DOT

What about the Department of Transportation? What was it like working for the DOT?

It was the bomb! They even supported us with potties!

Cope2-graffiti-Art-Is-Life

cope2-graffiti-tunnel-DOT

Were there any particular challenges?

At one point the walls cried, and we had to repaint some spots. But — overall — the entire experience was awesome.

 Photos of images:

1. Queen Andrea, Lois Stavsky

2. Jessie and Katey, Lois Stavsky; 3. Dani Reyes Mozeson 4. City-As-School intern Diana Davidova 

5. Queen AndreaDani Reyes Mozeson

6. RRobots, Dani Reyes Mozeson

7. & 8. CekisDani Reyes Mozeson

9. Cope2, Tara Murray; 10. Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Few NYC graffiti walls change as frequently as those in Upper Manhattan’s open-air gallery.  Curated by South Bronx native, Crane, the walls off the 1 train on 207th Street and 210th Street serve as revolving canvases to several veteran NYC writers and their occasional guests.  Here’s a sampling of what has surfaced in the past several months:

Uptown stylemaster Cone

cone

Veteran graffiti writer Kool Kito

Kool Kito

Local artist Panic Rodriguez

"Panic Rodrigues"

LA-based graffiti writer Jero ICR  

Jero

Legendary UK graffiti writer Pulse

pulse

Veteran graffiti writer Ree

Ree

Photos 1, 2, 5 and 6 by Lois Stavsky; 3 and 4 by City-as-School intern Travis Hicks

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Not many street artists make their way up to Manhattan’s Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods.  Ben Eine, Aiko, in collaboration with Indie184, and Peruvian artists Jade and Pesimo, who collaborated with Ket, are among those who did.

Ben Eine

"Ben Eine Street Art in NYC"

More after the jump!

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