Remembering "Greg B" (R.I.P); authentic 1980's LA Graffiti
“Greg B.” was a graffiti pioneer who brought authentic Los Angeles West Coast style to the East Coast in the 1980’s. On the East Coast, no one had ever seen cholo font before his visits, and graffiti bombing missions of the 80’s. His amazing pieces and characters were done exclusively in black and silver. Everything Greg B did was in black and silver, and done with fat caps, a style no one was rocking on the East Coast at the time. Barry McGee a.k.a “Twist” would trademark this two-tone, freestyle, illustration heavy, shaded, fat cap aesthetic, five years after it was introduced by “Greg B”. Greg’s work was far less contrived and calculated though, he was urban, raw, messy, spontaneous, and brilliant.
Except for Keith Haring, Greg B. painted in an era in which street art did not yet exist, an era before the mass commercialization of graffiti art. Although he was obviously a very tough individual, Greg, brought artistry and creativity to the walls, and broke down and redefined what graffiti art back then could be. Greg had seen gangs and violence, yet creativity and original art flourished from his raw street roots. Each one of his quick, freestyle, two color illustrative throw up pieces was packed with a level of artistry, originality and attitude, which challenged and redefined the boundaries of graffiti art at the time. He was a graffiti artist, but he wasn’t just doing a piece, or character; his rawness and talent stepped outside the lines of any styles or formats that graffiti had at the time. Greg B’s street hardness made every graffiti artist pause. He didn’t play by the rules of style, size, process or color; he brought his own rules.
Greg was an incredible artist, but the most amazing element of his work was it’s frightening power and spontaneity. The characters and text looked like an extension of the authentic, frightening, K2S Los Angeles gang cholo font which he rocked. Shadows and flat black fat cap shading over a field of silver spray paint were staples of his process. Other artists drew funny faces, Greg’s faces were genuinely frightening. Mushrooms have always been stock images amongst graffiti artists, since they refer to psychedelic mushrooms. Greg B. did amazing letters, frightening characters, and at times, he painted angular fields of mushrooms, beautiful fractured mushrooms, exploding with shards. His characters looked very dark, like they were potentially drawn by a sick violent man. The energy and fear that Basquait tried to evoke in his art, was genuinely felt in Greg B’s art, and no other graffiti or street artist, or gallery artist before or since, has so embodied that genuinely horrific, fractured, hard energy. (Perhaps some Francis Bacon work of the late 40’s also evokes this genuine feeling of horror.)
I can’t speak of how he passed away because I don’t know directly, but I think that “Deciet” from Boston, or “Hate” (“control”) mentioned that drugs may have been involved in Greg’s passing. Rest in Peace, man; you will always be, “The Real Superbad…Greg B.”