"Back then I don't think anyone ever thought much about the future of the movement and where it was going. Surely I didn't. It was a passing fancy, a fad, a sign of the times. Social unrest and war were at the forefront of our culture. There were gangs and there were causes, there was indecision and there was pressure. There was a feeling of helplessness and there were messages to be delivered. Modern day graffiti was that movement. As an inspired observer and participant in this fascinating underworld I will attempt to document some of my experiences as well as share some personal insights into the unknown art.
Some of the first impressions were religious messages scrawled all over the city. Things like, "READ THE BIBLE" "GO TO CHURCH" "BECOME CATHOLIC" and the omni-present "PRAY."
Creating an identity and developing a "tag" is the foundation from which any graffiti writer will build. Elements of style will be a factor, and there were few visionaries back then, certainly not the religious fanatics, and certainly not the Kilroys or TAKI 183's of the world.
There are many pioneers who have (through the very fact that they were there) established the standard by which excellence will be determined. My choice for (style guru) would be PHASE II. Of all the writers of this generation, he was truly an artist whose developments in lettering and spray painting techniques would provide many of his peers with "food for thought" for two more decades. There was also FLINT 707, RIFF 170, AMRL, TOPCAT 126 and the immortal STAY HIGH 149. Most of these all-stars were represented by the U.G.A. (United Graffiti Artists). The U.G.A. was the first group that attempted to make the transition from subway yard to gallery walls. For the most part, the U.G.A. was a cross-section of the most famous artists of that time, their exhibition at the Razor Gallery in Soho was what gave graffiti it's first taste of commercialism. "THE FAITH OF GRAFFITI" would be the first historical reference to surface. A nightmare, sauf the photos, but thoroughly compelling. Kurlansky Naar and Mailer.
I was always at home in the subway system. Obviously so were a lot of others. It makes perfect sense that the subway system would literally become the "vehicle." It just happened, it invited it. Suddenly graffiti wasn't limited to tenement halls, school yard walls, and bathroom stalls. Graffiti had found the speed at which it needed to be seen. To keep in step with the fast pace of communication and information sharing. What had started out as playing in subway tunnels had progressed into midnight forays deep in the interiors of the system.
My name just came to me one day, a combination of my favorite film, (2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY) by Stanley Kubrick, and the Futura typeface. Futura represented, obviously the future, and the 2000 was a projection of that thought. Most artists/writers had numbers to match the streets they lived on, i.e., FRANK 207, JOE 136, BARBARA 62. Some opted for Roman numerals indicating the first, the second, the third and so on. Now that an alias had been established, it was time to take it to the streets and see if there was some real future in this clandestine existence. I began harmlessly "motion tagging" subways, and occasionally spraying up some buildings. I didn't have the confidence to do pieces on the outside of subway cars just yet.
Fall 1972. When New York Magazine featured an article on graffiti, written by Richard Goldstein, (the same Richard Goldstein who eight years later would still be sympathetic to the art, with his cover story in the Village Voice) I explained to my mother, there is more to being a graffiti artist than just writing your name on a wall. She never shared my passion and saw no art in graffiti. She did however allow me the space to do what I wanted to do. I was 16, working, writing, and attending the City College of New York. It was there I first met Hugo Martinez, founder of the U.G.A.
It was Labor Day weekend in 1973 when another artist and I ventured down in the No.1 tunnel located between 137th St. and 145th St. just some 30ft. below Broadway. What hoped to be our finest moment had quickly turned to disaster. Equipped with a duffel-bag containing over 50 cans of spray paint we had planned to do pieces on all 6 trains that were in the tunnel. After a shaky start, we settled down and begun working on a very nice combination. At some point we heard sweepers moving through the trains, which meant that some of those cars were going to be pulled out of the tunnel. We had calculated on a holiday weekend, but didn't realize the holiday was over, and these trains were getting ready to roll for the weekday rush. When the lights of the train went on we immediately froze. What would it be, a raid, a high speed foot race? Not realizing that the track had gone "live," we were not ready for what happened next.
Suddenly there was this enormous flash and the next thing I saw was a ball of fire that had engulfed my friend instantly. Defective paint, mysterious spark, or fate dealing the cards...what is certain, is that my life would never be the same again."
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