OLD DOG-NEW TRICK
This article was posted by Terror161 2 years, 5 months, 1 week, 1 Day, 15 hours, 11 minutes ago.
My fondest memories of this barely recognizable culture come from a time when graffiti writers stole their supplies, fought for their territory, evaded police and put the rest of their lives on hold just to be king of the line. No prize in that box of cracker jacks. They sought fame and settled for infamy. I wouldn’t call street art an evolution or offshoot of graffiti. It’s hard to see Phase 2’s influence on Banksy, Barry McGee or Shepard Fairey. The common ground is an illegal appropriation of public space.
The term millionaire graffiti artist does not yet exist, although I’m hoping that things will change. My heroes wrote on trains working solely with the letters of the alphabet. As time rolled on characters and backgrounds appeared. They were the undercard-the piece always holding down the main event. That began to change when Staff 161 painted his grim reaper car in 1973, giving a young Blade direction and inspiration. Blade’s whole cars with characters and scenery inspired Lee Quinones to transform trains into conceptual paintings and Futura’s “Break” car in the 80’s dropped lettering altogether as an ingredient from graffiti’s time tested recipe.
For the past two years I’ve been working on a book that documents both street art and graffiti. Prior to that I’d shared a similar impression of street art with most of my old school contemporaries from the graff side of the fence- street art is wack- a bunch of art school kids pretending to be street until they can get a gallery show after which they remain indoors.
Martha Cooper convinced me to go to Art Basel this year to experience the scene, make connections and even paint a wall. Martha’s OG status and non-stop photo snapping made her a magnet for luminaries from both worlds. During our first day we hung out with Space Invader, Shepard and Amanda Fairey, Barry McGee none of whom I’d met before. Walls were being created everywhere I turned. Paint was plentiful and artists were catered to like celebrities with free food, forklifts and cherry pickers supplied and high powered lights with generators for night painting. I went to openings and parties for artists with corporate sponsors as diverse as Hello Kitty and The N.B. A. After my head cleared from the complimentary caipirinhas and paint fumes, I left Art Basel with a bittersweet feeling- glad that an art form I participated in for decades had arrived, but also missing the criminality and rebellion that made it so compelling at the onset. Unexpectedly I have become semi-knowledgeable about street art. Seeing a new world through an old pair of eyes ain’t easy. Here’s my first attempt to come to terms with it all. Props to Aiko who invited me to sneak on to HER all girl wall.: Oh yeah, sponsored by Levi’s! Hear that Hickey and Ski?
© Terror161 & 12ozProphet - Friday December 10, 2010