SHADOW - RIP

This article was posted by Haze 3 months, 1 week, 4 days, 12 hours, 41 minutes ago.

Unfortunately, the beginning of this year also marked the passing of another graffiti great, SHADOW.
Having known Chris since we were barely teenagers, his sister asked me to write a memorial for his service last weekend.

I am sharing the piece now publicly here too. Please just keep in mind, though graffiti is at the heart of the story,
it is about the man not the myth, my friend Chris, in consideration of being read amongst other friends and family as well as the uninitiated,
some of whom I never had the opportunity to meet or share these sentiments with until now :

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I’m sorry to mark the early passing of yet another old friend, and another legend in the graffiti world.

Long before his brother Spike put the Lee family and their Brooklyn neighborhood on the map in a big way,
I knew my friend Chris Lee better as “SHADOW”,
a true style master in the art of hand lettering, and a well respected member of our highly coded graffiti community. 

Chris aka Shadow was someone with whom I shared a lot of experiences coming up together in the 70’s.
Not even yet out of Junior High School,
we were part of a home grown generation that bonded together in pursuit of establishing our individuality through graffiti.
Our styles defined us amongst each other, and “Shadow” was clearly one of the writers with great style from day one.

But it was more than that too.
Riding on fumes of the hippie generation in the post Vietnam era, 
we were rebellious kids still set on tuning in and dropping out, with the five boroughs of New York City as our infinite playground.
Often meeting up in the epicenter of counter culture we found in the then Central Park underground milleau,
graffiti united us across color and neighborhood lines, considering each other brothers in a style war that often fell on otherwise deaf ears.

Chris also started a graffiti “crew” of which I was a member, which remains one of my favorite crew names ever : “The Soul Stoned Brothers”.
I mean C’mon, this was the era of Super Fly and Shaft…you couldn’t come up with a name like that now if you tried.
I have also looked and lamented for years that I could never find the hand done membership card I remember him giving me in 1975.

As we grew older and apart, not just Chris and I but all of us,
we understood and held these golden eras of ours as sacred, with trains, walls and writing books as the scriptures of our youth.
Perhaps instinctively, we knew they represented an age of innocence and connections that would never come to pass in our lives again,
and in retrospect, in a free for all New York City environment that too would never be recaptured.

We were only 13 years old when Chris created a full page piece in my book in 1974.
This book was passed around the High School of Art and Design, where Chris went with my then partner Michael, aka ME-1.
I actually put that book away as a time capsule shortly after that year, as it just seemed finite to me as it was, even back then.
It was only recently that I finally allowed the piece along with a select few others from that book to be published,
in a book titled “The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Artists” by Sacha Jenkins and another neighborhood friend of Chris’s, David Villorente.

Bold and original,
the SHADOW artwork emblazed the saying “SHADOW…FOR THE PEOPLE…I AM SOMEBODY” against the New York City skyline.
Outspoken and as in your face as Chris could often be,
this piece speaks with a confidence and style that challenged your own sense of identity as Chris successfully claimed his.
That was Chris, born out of these city streets, ready to confront an opinion or establish a position,
always armed with the self confidence that the respect we bore for each other as artists had bred in our young lives.

I cannot really speak for any other Chris than the one I knew best as a youth,
though we still always had a pound for each other over the years in the Brooklyn neighborhood we both lived.
What I want to do now, however,
is encourage you to listen to, remember and respect the strong voice that still comes through on that paper to this day,
as I wish eternal peace and blessings to my good friend from another time…and always, my Soul Stoned Brother.

Eric Haze - 1/4/14

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© Haze & 12ozProphet - Monday January 06, 2014

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