Dondi CIA


(Don White)

Born in 1961 in Manhattan, New York, where he died in 1998.

From Coming from the Subway: New York Graffiti Art. Groninger Museum and Benjamin & Partners, 1992.



I've always been in the core of it, in the nucleus of this whole thing. I've always been one of the first to do this. I was the first artist to show in Holland, have a one-man show, I was the first to go to Germany and have a one-man show. So, now for once I wanted to take a back seat and just observe things. I feel I've made the right move doing this. Granted I haven't produced over the last two years and I haven't made art sales, but that wasn't always important to me, making sales or making paintings. What was important to me is that I did good work,or at least attempted good work. That's one of the reasons I didn't do anything with Kevin Krich, because it just wouldn't have been right for me to paint a motorcycle if I wasn't painting on canvas or if I wasn't doing art on my own. It wouldn't have been a clear transition at all for me.

Now that I could say that my batteries are restored, I have plenty of good ideas, I could come back stronger. I'm feeling good, my mind is clear now. I'm a cyclist, there's a saying, free your mind and your ass will follow, that's what basically has happened here. Now I could execute my thoughts with more confidence than I would if I were just constantly doing, doing.

A lot of times I have to stop myself because I just want to paint, but I know I have to sit back and compile more ideas. I have a whole new idea for a series of paintings but I don't want to do them until I'm absolutely ready. I want the impact to be big, so I don't want to do it a little at the time.

I've been working on canvas for about twelve years now. Going very strong for six or seven years, it's only natural that you burn yourself out. I needed to take a break. It was a heavy time for all of us, running around, having shows. And not only that, we were doing other stuff like commercial things, and that takes a lot of energy out of you. Because not only do you have to produce on cue, it's mentally draining as well. For a while we were doing performance painting (until the middle eighties) with the rappers and the break-dancers, that was their stuff, but we had to adapt to that kind of tempo and that was very draining.

I've always had a problem with group shows because when you're in a group show it's hard to keep the concentration on the individuals. I mean small gallery shows where you are categorized as one group of people.

We, myself included, made a few mistakes when we started as artists, and people have capitalized on that because they saw they were able to come in and make good of a situation that we weren't totally familiar with. Which is okay because it's also a learning process. I've always had a good rapport with the art-dealers here, I understand their position. There's always pressure put on people from the establishment, there's always a certain amount of politics. It's something you have to learn to accept, or work around.

Our work was very hard to understand at the beginning. People here in New York tend to be frightened of things they don't understand. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were more palatable, it didn't frighten people as much as our work, as our presence. We were very young, and because we didn't pay for our paint they regarded us as thieves.

The biggest battle for us was to fight for our individualism, we had to stand as individuals. We no longer wanted to be classified as a group of Graffiti painters or subway artists, that was the largest battle for me to overcome, and for the others I imagine. That's way I still don't like group exhibitions.

Now when I come back, it will be strictly my work speaking for me, now that I have myself removed from that surrounding. The whole thing of us was verbal, communicating on the subways. I feel now that people have lived long enough with the work and they understand what it's about.


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