Having recently participated in GRAFFUTURISM’s collective painting project “In Situ” down at Art Basel,
I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding experiences as an artist I have had in many years.
Not only do I believe this project speaks loudly for where anything considered “the movement” is at or heading,
but it also transcended the usual geo-politics at work in both the art and graffiti worlds in a rare and significant way.
The curator of this project, Poesia, asked me to write a forward for the official release of it’s contents,
which I’m honored to be asked to do.
Considering this represents much more than just another project in my eyes,
please allow me a little indulgence of history first as I wind my way towards thoughts
on more current and site-specific reflections ;
My experiences have been born out of a much different era during the first marriages of “graffiti” and “art”,
where our original collectives like “The Soul Artists”, despite some marginal success in galleries and the media,
soon gave way to ego, graffiti wars and the watch-your-back mentality of the ’80s,
with any real sense of unity becoming then a thing of the past. While some of us did in fact stay committed to the game in our own ways and means, I felt for a long time that my generation had fallen way short if it’s original cultural promise above ground, as Europe and territories outside the five boroughs of NYC adopted and carried the torch throughout the ’90s. As a then grown man trying to elevate my game and prosper, still using my tag front and center but now as a logo, I effectively checked out of the streets of New York, looking for new models and platforms on which to continue developing my styles, building my design studio and brand while also trying to fulfill whatever other creative destinies I could manifest.
When I finally returned home to New York in 2005 over a decade later,
fully reopening my eyes again to what was ( still ) happening on a grass roots level, I was kind of blown away with how graffiti had continued to flourish beyond the death of train bombing and the golden era. Not only had crews like IRAK and MSK taken the revolution back to the streets in unified fashions, but they also wrestled the game back home to America again, along with the internet having created an unprecedented level world playing field too. Through both re-connecting with old style warriors from my generation and establishing friendships with up-and-coming modern masters, I was moved and inspired by the whole notion that the movement was again vital and truly progressive, besides the fact that I also ended up, much to my surprise, with a spray can in my hand enjoying the pure sport of it again for the first time in almost 15 years.
Along with reconnecting to this essence of graffiti itself, I was struck on my return to NY with a sense
that there was also a compelling new dialogue emerging in the fine art world;
part of which had been built on a convergence of sensibilities born out of graffiti and the hip hop
generation, while also still married to the roots and DIY mentality of the early ’80s East Village / NY art movement I grew out of with the likes of Keith Haring and Basquiat. I knew it was time to roll up my sleeves again, find a new voice with which to create more personal artwork and re-join this modern conversation, at the time picking up a paintbrush, charcoal and anything but a marker and spray can to define this as a new departure, not just a return to an old fork in the road.
Clearly, I was not the only one who felt this way ;
The last five years have seen a renaissance of graffiti, new and old – along with it’s wayward step child “Street Art” -
and all their variations, in shows, books, films, products, websites, and you name it….
culminating in the mixed blessing museum show that was “Art in The Streets”. It doesn’t take much to understand that graffiti and street art have now become “buzz words” in the galleries, agencies and corporate boardrooms of the world, and though all this new recognition and rising stock may be good for business now, it also creates a precarious level of hype, not always for the right reasons or end results. It’s my belief that graffiti in it’s purest and most legitimate sense has always had at best an uncomfortable marriage with business and politics, however much it may profit from them, and personally, I have always tried to keep a healthy distinction between what I consider graffiti and what I consider art or design, also treading carefully between passions and profits.
Meanwhile – and here is where I get up to speed now – both “real” graffiti done purely for the love of the game,
plus the myriad of beautiful modern artwork that once and current “writers” continue challenging themselves to create,
have never been better, more exciting, and dedicated to remaining true to operating OUTSIDE the confines of any given system. This is the underlying power and greater significance of our work, and in fact, how we choose to live our lives…
it’s what we do. Yes it’s about creating art, pure and simple, and yes, we appreciate proper representation and compensation for our efforts where appropriate, but it’s about much more than all that too.
Through this art form we take a stand for our beliefs and stake our claim on history, individually and collectively, past present and future. As lofty as it may sound, these are the greatest freedoms our grandfathers fought world wars to earn for us, part and parcel of the same ideals that had our crimey, delinquent young asses lying to our parents,
getting kicked out of schools, and questioning authority while wandering the subway tunnels and streets of our cities…
tagging and painting in search of self and like minded co-conspirators. Sorry we wrote on your front door, we have something to say by any means necessary and just got caught up in the moment.
I believe it is in this spirit that Poesia originally created the website GRAFFUTURISM,
built on the need for an honest platform of dialogue within our ever growing community. I know it is in this spirit that he produced and curated the “In Situ” group installation down at Art Basel this year, and I believe these truths are also clear in the democracy and dialogue within our collective work. Straddling the fine lines between anarchy, cooperative spirit, and some structure that might contain otherwise random notions in a cohesive way, it was truly inspirational to find these rare transformative moments in creative time together with such individuals of great artistic integrity.
Hopefully this also comes through in the pictures and video to follow… I know it will live in my memory forever.
Despite all the self-invention and promotion that the internet now allows everyone,
there is still no substitute for doing the work, the more original the better. The bar gets set higher every day and we operate on an increasingly go-big-or-go home world stage, where crowns are taken not handed out,
and nothing less than full commitment and bold strokes earn anyone a place at the modern banquet of kings.
With this in mind, GRAFFUTURISM set a full table in middle of the world’s most visible playing field at Art Basel this year, inviting a collection of modern masters, young, old and in between to cook, marinate and present the visual feast that is now “In Situ”. Fortunately, as time passes and we return to our respective lives and missions around the globe,
the flavors of this meal will remain with us in images forever, and we are proud to share them with the world now….enjoy.
Haze – 12/11