Design firm Mojo Stumer Associates pisses on 5Pointz’s grave…

Via Mass Appeal

It’s already bad enough to see the condos building on the rubble of New York City’s graffiti mecca, 5Pointz, rise up and burn our eyes through the windows of the 7 train. What’s even worse is to see how this luxury residential building will incorporate the graffiti it destroyed into its interior design.

As first reported by Curbed NY, the developers of the 5Pointz site, G&M Realty, hit up design firm Mojo Stumer Associates to handle the interior lobby and residential spaces in the building. As shown in images from the company’s website, the bourgeoise amenities of living in a L.I.C. high rise is topped off with some awkwardly placed graffiti art. It’s the perfect way to show just how New York you really are without even stepping onto the sidewalk!

However, high-end real estate developers jacking graffiti is nothing new. Like avocado toast, luxury buildings with graffiti just resonate with people that have money to burn. Just two weeks ago, it was reported that there is currently a Banksy-themed building in Bushwick with some horribly inspired stencils.

But putting shitty Banksy renditions in a random building in Bushwick is very different from putting graffiti in the condo gravestone that is 5Pointz. Owner Jerry Wolkoff’s insistence to use the name of 5Pointz as the name of his crappy building was one thing. However, graffiti and street art is for the streets, not for some rich a-hole living in Long Island City’s latest eyesore.

In interviews, Wolkoff said he would add legal walls and artist studios to his residential high rise. As if it that would make up for all the work he suddenly whitewashed overnight, leading to a federal lawsuit. I mean, it’s funny how these rich white guys always act like they’re down with the culture when we all know they just vulture it for dollar signs. You ain’t low Wolfcock.

“And I wanted to talk to the wall writers. The guys that made the first crowns, did the first arrows, were doing the first stick pieces on the street. Really the guys that helped get style to what it became. So many of these people are overlooked. They wrote on walls in the late 60s and early 70s”…

Wall Writers celebrates original graffiti vandals

When subculture documentarian Roger Gastman was working on his encyclopedic graffiti bible, The History of American Graffiti, he met such unique characters among his older interview subjects that he decided to start filming them, thinking it might perhaps result in a short film down the line. “Before I knew it I realized I had a film of a lot of originators, a lot of people that had never spoken before about what they did 35, 40 years ago,” Gastman told Mass Appeal by phone from his home in Los Angeles. These original vandals made crucial contributions to the early development of graffiti culture in New York and Philadelphia, yet much of their legacy had never been properly documented, until Gastman decided to dig deeper.

Seven years later, Gastman was getting ready to travel to New York for the last in a string of premieres across the country of Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence, his new documentary feature. The film and accompanying book focus solely on the generation of graffiti writers that, with little precedent, was laying the groundwork for graffiti’s language, styles and code of conduct.

“I knew I wanted to speak to people who mostly had not been spoken to much before,” Gastman recalled. “And I wanted to talk to the wall writers. The guys that made the first crowns, did the first arrows, were doing the first stick pieces on the street. Really the guys that helped get style to what it became. So many of these people are overlooked. They wrote on walls in the late 60s and early 70s. Some of them did it for six months, some of them did it for two years. Most of them graduated high school and stopped doing it, or they went away to the service and stopped doing it, and most of them didn’t look back. Those were the people I wanted to talk to, those were the people I wanted to celebrate.”

In order to find these early writers and get them to agree to tell their story, Gastman had to be extremely patient and play what he calls “a huge game of telephone.”

“Luckily there were a few people around that we could talk to,” he remembered. “I’ll take TAKI for example. He wasn’t easy to find, but we got at him. Once he saw that we weren’t asking him the same six questions a lot of people were asking him and that it was actually much deeper than that, he said ‘Hey, what about my friends that taught me about graffiti?’ He told us about PHIL T. GREEK the first, PHIL T. GREEK the second, GREG69 and a few others. He dug them up for us and we brought them in and talked to them.”

Sometimes what seemed like a dead end turned out to lead in a new direction. “We tried to find JULIO. That unfortunately went nowhere. But through trying to find JULIO, TAKI dug up JAG, who was JULIO’s only real graffiti partner of the time, and we talked to him. There were numerous people where it was just through someone, through someone. SNAKE helped greatly. He was at a funeral and he ran into ROCKY, who he hadn’t seen in probably 20 years. He ran into MIKE and SJK. MIKE saw him while he was out on the street painting a mural.” SNAKE connected them to Gastman, and they in turn connected him to other writers.

While the film features a great number of individual personalities and stories, Gastman couldn’t skirt the question that may also be on the minds of many viewers: Who did it first? Popular lore has it that the first graffiti writer was either Philadelphia’s CORNBREAD (who recently shared his story with Mass Appeal) or New York’s TAKI 183.

“There’s always a question of who did it first,” Gastman relented. “If you talk to CORNBREAD he will tell you, hands down, he did it first, and I’m not gonna sit there and argue with him. But if you talk to a few people in New York they’ll tell you they did it first. In the end, I think TAKI has the best quote about that: It doesn’t matter who was first, it’s who you saw first and what influenced you. TAKI will also be very upfront and tell you he was not the first NYC graffiti writer. He was probably the first NYC graffiti writer to go all city, and he’s the one that had the New York Times article about him, but he will tell you he was not the first.”

The film’s subtitle describes another facet of the story Gastman tried to tell. Almost every subculture at one point or another becomes permeated by commercial interests of some kind. Gastman wanted to capture what graffiti was like before it lost its “innocence” as a cultural movement.

“These kids were running around being kids,” he said. “They were having fun, they were getting their names out, they were doing it for fame. There weren’t too many things that went along with it. They weren’t fighting for space. They were rarely fighting with each other. In the end, UGA comes into the picture, United Graffiti Artists, which is the first group of graffiti writers taken off the street, put into a studio and then into a gallery setting”—as early as 1972-73, long before some of the subway writers entered the galleries in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. “As soon as the dollar comes in, it’s a whole different program.”

However, that doesn’t mean the game has lost its innocence completely. “I think when people start writing graffiti, for the most part there’s always going to be innocence to it. A lot of times of course the innocence is lost by the first fist fight, the first arrest, the first diss, et cetera. But I think all graffiti starts off as innocent.”

Ultimately, what was most important to Gastman was to celebrate the originators and thank them for their contributions while they were still around to tell their stories. Graffiti, Gastman ventured, is “the fastest growing art movement of the last 50 years. It’s in fashion, it’s in music, it’s everywhere. And so many times the originators of all these subcultures that turn into [a major cultural movement] don’t get to be celebrated while they’re still living.”

Wall Writers, its director insisted, is for anyone who loves subcultures and art. With the film’s New York premiere, the legacy of its subjects is coming home.

Bansky goes to Gaza (Video)

Via CP

Banksy has once again landed in Palestine, following up his 2005 outing to the West Bank’s controversial dividing barrier with a trip to war-torn Gaza. The result is a two-minute video in which the pseudonymous British figure showcases several new works, mocking a directive issued by a tourism advertisement to “discover a new destination.” And what a destination — the video, posted on the artist’s website, features captioned footage indicating the use of a “network of illegal tunnels” to reach the beleaguered zone.

Futura 2000, Daze, and Lady Pink in CBS report about “graffiti”…


“It is now in fact a national urban epidemic,” said one journalist in a 1972 CBS News report. “It spreads like some mysterious magic marker pen, spray-paint fungus. And now it seem that almost every inch of every public wall is covered with names in an obscured kind of print.”

Remember when graffiti was the scourge of American cities?

But now what was once considered vandalism is being presented in an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, showcasing some who, as teenagers, left their mark in the 1970s and ’80s.

“I’m going to be 59 this year,” said Futura 2000, whose real name is Leonard McGurr, “and so looking back, wow, it just doesn’t seem real.”

McGurr, Chris Ellis (who goes by the street name of Daze), and Sandra Fabara (also known as Lady Pink), say that early graffiti was all about “tagging” — figuring out a stylish and distinctive way to write your street name.

Ellis said, “Spray paint was the perfect medium for what we were doing, because it was vibrant colors, it was quick, it dried fast, and enabled you to paint on a large scale.”

Over the years, graffiti writers began to embellish their works with more design elements, many “borrowed” from popular culture.

All along, part of the attraction for these kids (including Lady Pink) was that they were outlaws, with spray paint (often stolen) as their weapon of choice:

“Learning how to paint in pitch blackness with your knees banging together, your heart in your throat, you hear a noise and it might be only a rat, but you jump out of your sneakers and you run down the length of the lane — and then you have to come back and continue painting in the dark,” said Fabara. “You develop night vision. This is not an easy feat.”

But what many of us never realized is how hard these teenagers worked on their creations. They actually planned out what they were going to put on buildings and trains and buses.

“Yeah, it was very common to kind of work on your style and then translate it into work in the world,” said Sean Corcoran, who curated the exhibit.

Corcoran showed Braver a rare group of “Little Black Books,” essentially sketchbooks. There are also photos and reproductions of graffiti, all collected by the late Martin Wong, a painter in his own right who became friend and mentor to many of the young graffiti writers.

“He believed there was a real creative value to what these kids were doing,” said Corcoran, “and he really bought into who they were.”

“He saw them as artists, not hoodlums?” said Braver.

“Yes, exactly. He really very strongly believed that.”

But others object to glorifying graffiti, arguing that it’s a sign of a city out of control.

Heather Mac Donald, who writes about urban policy for the Manhattan Institute, says she is angry about the exhibit, and describes the graffiti writers’ work as “filthy” and “spirit-killing.”

“It does not focus sufficiently on the corrosive effect that graffiti had on the city’s spirit,” she told Braver. “Anybody who could avoid the subways in the 1970s and ’80s, did.”

“The exhibit presents graffiti in the context of art — you’re suggesting that this isn’t art,” said Braver.

“It is vandalism,” Mac Donald said. “It is an appropriation of the public’s space or somebody’s private property without permission. And nobody has a right to do that.”

But there’s another perspective:

“It’s only graffiti or vandalism if you get arrested, but if you get away with it, then it’s clearly art,” said Lady Pink.

In fact, graffiti began to disappear on streets and subways as New York City became more vigilant about cracking down and cleaning up.

But it has left a lasting impression on our culture: Futura 2000 has become a graphic artist who has worked for Nike and Levi’s. Lady Pink is a painter whose work has been exhibited in several museums, and so is Daze.

And the graffiti movement paved the way for world-renowned artists like Keith Haring, Banksy and Shepard Fairey (who created the famous Obama Hope poster), all of which delights this trio of graffiti pioneers.

“I think we’re all pretty grateful right now to have had that experience, because a lot of people pine for it,” said Futura 2000. “They [say], ‘Oh wow, must have been so cool back then in New York.’ And you know what? Yeah, it was. And you missed it!”

The museum says this has been one of the most popular exhibits in years, and whether you like the work or what it stands for, there’s no getting away from the fact that all of this was created by the very young:

The trains, said Lady Pink, were done by 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds: “It is done by kids. When was the last time we’ve ever seen an important movement be contributed by teenagers in our American culture?”