Throwback Thursday: Philly’s Agua
Handstyles in Philly are a tradition, traveling from generation to generation. Just like any other city, there are stories told through typography and found on the streets. But unlike other cities, Philly is known for a certain style. The “wicked” is an exaggerated, cryptic and sometimes elongated version of a writer’s tag. In short, this kind of graffiti is considered local craft. It is usally handed down from an old head to a young bol. For some, a wicked may seem like just another handstyle or font. For many Philadelphians, wickeds are much more than a way to write your name. Many may think wickeds are careless and appear crazy or illegible. However, the fact is that they are carefully constructed to appear this way. Wickeds are based on years of foundational work in simple letters executed in a balanced, stylish way. This phenomenon in Philly started in the mid 1970s and matured into a more sophisticated style by the early 1980s. This style is still commonly used and appreciated today.
Some writers, like Agua, are inextricably linked to wickeds. He was a Philadelphia based artist in the ’90s, known for his wickeds closed with smiley faces. Many consider him to be the “king” of Philly. Some of his work still continues to live underground where writers and explorers travel to see old Philly legends. The closed off service tunnel is hard to access, but if you’re lucky enough to get down there, you’ll be amazed at the amount of history on the walls. Agua is one of the many who left their mark on the old abandoned walls underground years ago. Not many have seen his work in person, but a few have been able to take pictures of their experience underground in the tunnels. One iconic photo shows a legendary Agua wicked with a smiley at the end. This image itself is linked to Philadelphia graffiti and the accompanying traditions.
Agua’s wickeds are valuable, but he is known for much more than that. He has pieces and hands still riding around the city. Although they are old and outdated, many still value them for what they’re worth. His talent and reputation is displayed through another artist’s work, Steve Powers (aka Espo). The two writers go way back and Powers dedicated a mural to Agua, bringing his iconic smiley face to life in Brewerytown, Philadelphia.
Many believe that Agua created a new set of standards for styles in Philly since the ’80s generation. While locked up in a Pennsylvania State Penitentiary Facility, he still manages to send us his “greetings” through a short clip of impressive face styles and wickeds. His legends still lives, and he is rumored to be released this year.