As passionate today as he was back in the 70’s when he was making his mark on a range of public surfaces, Louie Gasparro aka KR.ONE recently shared some of his experiences and impressions of the ever-evolving graffiti culture with us.
When and where did you start getting up?
I started getting up in 1977 in Astoria, Queens. I was part of what is considered the third wave of original NYC graffiti writers.
Why did you begin writing?
We were trying to be somebodies in a world of nobodies. There was no money. It was our way of advertising ourselves…of getting our names out in a big way. The pieces and tags we did were essentially ads that we didn’t have to pay for. And we loved that it was so underground. We had our own way of saying things that outsiders didn’t understand. It was cool.
Any formal training?
Nothing formal. I was inspired by comics, some how-to-books, hard rock album covers and television cartoons. And I used to cut out of my school and hang out at the High School of Art and Design. Through Fome 1, I met writers such as Erni (Paze), Doze Green, Lady Pink, Daze and Seen TC5. But I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid – everything from hot rods to the members of the band Kiss. Once, the principal walked into my classroom when I was drawing a caricature of Gene Simmons with his tongue out spitting blood. He looked at the piece, and I thought, “Oh my God!” But he said he liked it and decided to hang it up in the hallway. I was amazed at his response.
With whom did you write? Any influences?
TSS (The Super Squad), TKC (The Killer Crew), RTW (Rolling Thunder Writers), IRT (Invading Rapid Transit) and NWA (New Wave Artists) . I wrote with KB, Fome1, Erni, Sick Nick, Mace, Robert 78 and RCA (Reckless Car Artist). I was influenced by Don1, Dean, KB, Son1, Roto1 and Zephyr.
Have you any particular memory from back in the days?
I was almost killed in the M yard in 1980. There is a bus depot nearby, and there were always bus drivers hanging out. They would usually just chill, but one time as I was writing and piecing with Fome1, they began throwing bottles in our direction. The glass was shattering around us as they laughed. We took cover under the trains. Suddenly the train began to move, and I was almost hit by an oncoming motor.
Wow! What were your preferred surfaces back then?
I liked painting on everything. I started on paper, then walls, then trains. And when that era was over for me in 1983, it was back to walls and paper and then canvasses.
How do you feel about graffiti’s evolution? Do you follow the current scene? Any favorites?
It was all about New York City. And then it was the whole world. It went from dudes writing their names in simplistic plain letters through a metamorphosis of styles and a global expansion. It’s truly amazing. Favorites? Some of my favorites from today are actually European-based artists such as Swet from Denmark, Daim from Germany, Mode2 from Paris and Uor and Rife from Italy. I still really dig what Daze, Part, Ces, Kaves and Whisper are still doing, as well.
How do you feel about the so-called street-art and graffiti divide?
Those are just categories that do just that — they divide. It serves as a way to market both. Street artists and graff writers have their distinct styles and mindsets. Sometimes their differences are subtle; sometimes they’re not. But both come from the streets.
What do you see as the future of graffiti? How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries and museums?
Graffiti and street art deserve to be in galleries and museums. There should be entire museums dedicated to urban arts. Scholars realize what’s going on and can see that this movement – that began largely by children — has become a true phenomena. What essentially started in the streets has become the biggest movement in art history.
What are you up to these days?
Since my last show, Bringer Of The Kolorstorm, this past March, I’ve been creating new works for my new solo show this coming Saturday, October 6th. This latest offering, A Fistful of Stars, is a selection of illustrations, mixed media pieces and canvas work. I return to my old stomping ground in Long Island City at a place called C.A.W.S. (Cause Art Will Survive).
How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all this?
The Internet is the cyber bench to the graffiti world…the window to the whole world. You can be sitting in a place like Milwaukee and see a piece that was just painted in Scandinavia. It’s an instant get-up — a world-wide instant get-up. I remember when we would wait all day just to see a certain piece pass by on a train. I remember waiting on a train station for a Dondi and Lee piece to roll by, so that I could just look at it and absorb it. I don’t have to do that today.
I plan to stay as creative as possible and continue to share my work with others.
Interview by Lenny Collado; Photos by Tara Murray, Lois Stavsky and courtesy of the artist