Graffiti art is as ancient as the Egyptian hieroglyphs themselves. Its esoteric nature and mysterious allure has adorned every square inch of a surface deemed worthy of aerosol grandeur. My first experience in the culture that many view as vandalism began as a rebellious youth tagging middle school notebooks and hallways as I always made sure that I never left home without my Magnum 44 markers and graf book in tow. I can fondly recall that fateful day my mother instructing me to stay in the house as she ran to the grocery store a few blocks away and during that period I thought I could venture across the street to tag a freshly painted Bodega wall. An absolute novice at the craft I immediately began scribbling my name as a police cruiser simultaneously appeared into view ironically.
For some strange reason I became paralyzed with fear as the notoriously hot-tempered cop in my neighborhood summoned me to stop. In doing so he violently slammed me to the wall of the building as my mother returning from the store witnessed her disobedient and gifted son being arrested for a crime a select few of graf artists today are being paid for. As one of the pillars of Hip-Hop, I would spend my life venturing into New York City riding the subways and paying homage to some of the most influential artists and pioneers in the world (Seen, Zephyr, Dondi (R.I.P.), Blade, Lady Pink, Lee,). When the book Subway Art was released back in 88′, I was in awe as the intricate designs, lettering, and characters that jumped out of the glossy pages that would transform me into a disciple that the multitudes would later describe as the quintessential Bible for artists past and present.
Graffiti photographer Billy Schon has managed to capture the nostalgic essence of New York by harnessing the energy of a decade into 400 pages by assembling the work of the city’s hottest crews(TATS CRU, X-Men,SMART,COD, AKB,) to name a few and a collage of imagery that adorned the walls, trucks, and subway cars that no longer display their work due to New York’s campaign to eradicate the magnanimous art form. Today artists from all around the world are continuing graffiti’s legacy by transforming the landscape of their inhumane surroundings due to the absolute negligence of their oppressors by speaking in a language that will continue to stand the tests of time. I would encourage all historians,fans,artists, and admirers of the culture to run and grab this piece of history that the system will never be able to eradicate, as long as there are a secret society of writers and a surface to explore including the moon to suddenly realize that Kilroy was there.
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