Video: 8 Million Stories – Bill Blast Interview

By - Monday, June 25th, 2012

This interview is part of 8 Million Stories, a series of short video portraits of New Yorkers. In this video Bill Blast recounts his experiences painting at Studio 54 and painting his most famous work, his “Sky’s The Limit” handball court at Rock Steady Park. This video was posted by Bates on his blog on 12ozProphet. From the video: William Cordero, born in 1964, grew up in Harlem. He went to High School of Art & Design in Manhattan and later took classes at Parsons School of Design. In the early 80’s he was part of a group of subway writers that made the shift to the gallery scene. Bill Blast, as he is known, has exhibited in Europe and the US. In 1982, in what should commonly be known as Rock Steady Park, Bill Blast painted two masterpieces on opposite sides of the handball court. The first was entitled “Sky’s the Limit,” referencing the lyrics in “Keep On” by the group D-Train. The painting consisted of several prominent New York City landmarks, creating an urban backdrop for an empowering message to the local community. On the other side of the wall stood a piece called “Eye of the Tiger.” Unlike most pieces during this period, “Eye of the Tiger” was unusual because instead of having letters as its centerpiece there was a gigantic tiger face with a Zulu Nation bead hanging from it’s neck praising Afrika Bambaataa’s universal idea. Bill Blast’ “Eye of the Tiger” worked as a backdrop in Rock Steady Crew’s music video for “Hey You” and “Sky’s the Limit” was featured in cult director Larry Cohen’s 1985 sci-fi movie “The Stuff”. Both walls also appeared in Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff’s classic Spraycan Art book giving inspiration to up-and-coming writers around the globe. As a tribute to Bill Blast, the German writer Tobe recently reworked the Eye of the Tiger mural to honour the original artist. Today, the murals are long gone and this tiny plot of land on West 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, which was a popular practice grounds for the b-boy’ing legends Rock Steady Crew, has been refurbished and the handball courts torn down. In addition to his art accomplishment, Bill Blast worked as a consultant on the movie “Beat Street” from 1984. Produced by the cultural and political icon Harry Belafonte, the sketches that Blast handed over ended up being painted by unionized scenic artists giving the film a much less authentic look. Though Blast was disappointed, he stayed long enough to coach Ramo, the main character in the movie played by Jon Chardiet, about the subways and the writing culture. Along with such luminaries from the subway writing era as Lee, Dondi, Duster and Phase 2, Blast took part in the ‘Art Train’ event in Detroit in 1986 that was put together by Dolores Newman with documentarian Henry Chalfant as one of the curators. Blast would sometimes shorten his name to “Bil” as written in the “Eye of the Tiger” mural. He did so in order to try and distance himself from the fashion designer Bill Blass, among other people with similar sounding names. Bill Blast Cordero is still active as an artist. He’s currently preparing for an exhibition in France later in 2012.

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