Blackbooks and tags

Tracy168 graffiti Bushwick Collective NYC Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

With his outstanding sense of color, style and design, Tracy 168 achieved legendary status early on in the most significant art movement of our time. The personification of wild style and the first writer to hit the subways with cartoon characters, the prolific artist wielded tremendous influence. On reviewing Tracy 168‘s work on exhibit back in 1999, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times art critic Holland Cotter had the following to say: “Tracy offers an astounding variety of styles, from 3-D to space-age spiky to Cubistic. He floats out words on cushions of colors, and ties them up in unreadable knots, festooned with tendril-like flourishes.”

When did you first get up?

I first got up with a crayon on a wall in my house when I was four years old. I remember drawing a tortoise and a hare. I lived across from the Bronx Zoo, and I always heard the sounds of animals from my window.

What about the streets? When did you first hit the streets? And the trains? When did you first hit them?

In 1969 when the Mets won the World Series, I first hit the streets. And I tagged my first train the same year. I was 11.

tracy 168 mets yankees graffiti train Bronx NYC Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

Tracy flint photo Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

What inspired you to do so?

I loved the sense of adventure…the adrenalin rush. I envisioned myself as a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. And I loved seeing my name on the trains.

Had you any favorite spots?

I was all-city, and I loved painting anywhere with people whom I loved. But my favorite spots were New Lots Avenue and Utica Avenue on the IRT line in Brooklyn. Any train I painted there would run right away, and so I didn’t have to hang around too long to see my piece pass by.

tracy168 cartoon on subway train Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

What about crews? Did you get up with any crews?

I founded the Wanted crew. It was one of the largest crews ever, and just about anybody who was anybody of worth was in that crew. It represented Wild Style.

Had you any early role models or inspirations?

My mother, my grandfather, Jack StewartMichael Stewart… Michael Stewart gave his life so that others would live. After his death in 1983 — and the trials and investigations that ensued — the police were somewhat afraid of treating writers so brutally.  We are the true prophets…

Any particular risky ventures stand out?

I was always wild, always doing dangerous things.

tracy168 painting Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

How did you support yourself back in the day? What was your source of income?

In the late 70’s, I began to create all kinds of art-related jobs for myself — painting storefronts, memorial walls, murals… I was the first writer to do that kind of thing. I also worked in an advertising agency. Jack Stewart taught me about copyrights and trademarks. He was a true mentor. He told me real stories — not the ones from Fantasy Island.

Your work has been shown in all kinds of settings across the globe!

Yes!  I’ve been in museums and galleries all over the world. I was always breaking boundaries, Here in NYC my work has been exhibited in dozens of spaces including the New York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum and NYU.

I remember seeing your work at the Brooklyn Museum back in 2006.

Yeah! When I came by, I made some adjustments to my canvas with a paintbrush. That didn’t go over well with the security guards. They got the curator of the exhibit involved, who insisted that I couldn’t change anything, since it had already been photographed for their catalog.

tracy168 graffiti Bronx NYC Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

Did you have a formal art education?

My education is hands-on.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in this scene?

It can be used as a tool — if you know how to read the truth.

tracy sketch Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

What’s your ideal working environment?

Anywhere outdoors. Even when I paint canvases, I like to paint outside.

What inspires you these days?

My main inspiration is to express myself and grow as an artist in a world that is reluctant to see me as one.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Every culture. NYC is a melting pot, and I’m in the center of it painting.

tracy 168 abstract art in black book Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

I’m not done until I’m happy. As long as I’m alive, I can improve on it. But it must have meaning and exude positivity. Otherwise, why bother?

A few years back you were reported dead. What was that all about?

If I hadn’t died then, I wouldn’t be alive now. It had to happen.  When I vanished, I saw the world going in the wrong direction. This art form can save it.

How has your work evolved in the last few years?

It’s constantly evolving.  This movement is to art like jazz is to music. It’s a fusion of styles and cultures that knows no boundaries. It is a universal language. And the message of Wild Style is “Be yourself. Find out what your talent is and get good at it.” I love everyone, but I will not surrender the truth and lose my integrity.

tracy168 with sketchbook Speaking with the Legendary Tracy 168

Photos: 1, 6-9 Lois Stavsky; 2, 4 & 5 courtesy of the artist; 3 Flint Gennariinterview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: Photos 7 & 8 were captured from Tracy’s current black book; special thanks to Flint for the introduction!

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Speaking with Yes One

July 9, 2014

Bronx native Yes One has been gracing walls, canvases and more with his energetic aesthetic — in NYC and beyond — for almost 30 years. StreetArtNYC is delighted to feature an interview with him.

Yes one graffiti Bronx NYC Speaking with Yes One

How did you first get into graffiti? What inspired you?

I was introduced to graffiti by Smiley 149 of the Ebony Dukes when I was 10 years old. He used to chill outside my favorite candy shop where I played Asteroids on the arcades. He sat on a crate right outside, and we would vibe watching the trains go by on the Tremont El. This was about 1979.

When you began writing, what kind of surfaces did you hit?

Illegal ones — because of the rush. I can’t explain it, but it’s like robbing a bank.

How did your family feel about what you were doing back then?

My mom and dad hated it. They saw it as a crime. My mother was scared. She used to say, “Te voy a botar esas latas!” (I’m going to throw your cans out!)  She actually kept some of those cans, and I have some collectables today.

yes One abstract graffiti on canvas Speaking with Yes One

Have you painted with any crews?

Yes! I’ve painted with BT, 4Burners, GAK, and FX – among others.

Do you prefer working alone or would you rather collaborate with other artists?

I often work alone, but I’m open to collaborating with anyone.

Who are some of the artists with whom you’ve painted?

Dero, Pase, PerOne, Logek, Beasto, Tone MST, Ribs GAK and Shiro  —  to name a few.

Yes1 graffiti Bushwick Speaking with Yes One

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I see them as two different things. Graffiti is letters, forms and styles. Street art doesn’t pay homage to graffiti, but I can admire it.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I think it’s great! I had works featured in a number of exhibits including Cause and Effect and Board of Art and at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

What about the role of the Internet in this scene? Do you follow any sites?

I follow 12ozProphet and FreshPaint. The Internet is a great networking and marketing tool. It is how I’m able to sell canvases overseas.

And the photographers in this scene? How do you feel about them?

They don’t bother me. They have learned the etiquette.

Yes One abstract graffiti on canvas close up Speaking with Yes One

Do you have a formal arts education?

I never went to art school.

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve done?  And why were you willing to take that risk?

Painting in the 2 and 5 train yards in the Bronx with Clark in the late 80s. I was young, and you do foolish things when you’re young.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

My ideal working environment is the Ya Tu Sabe studio space.

What inspires you these days?

Seeing people checking out my walls, taking pictures and smiling. When I see people appreciating my work, I feel I did my job.

Yes One Black Book graffiti wild style Speaking with Yes One

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

I influence myself.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand or do you let it flow?

I work with a sketch in my hand, but what goes on the wall is not always a hundred percent what was on the paper.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’m never satisfied. I may “finish” a wall this week and go back the next saying to myself, “I could have added this or that.”

How do you feel when you look back at the work you did two years ago?

I take it as a good reference point for picking up new techniques and elevating my style. I feel that my work has gotten stronger. And I feel a hunger to produce more and further my talents.

Shiro Yes One Part One graffiti5Pointz Long island City NYC Speaking with Yes One

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art? I know you have a “day job.”

I’d say about 75 percent. It’s work – then, art. I wake up at 5 in the morning and don’t go to sleep until 2 a.m.

What are some of your other interests?

I love baseball and collecting rare items. I also love BMX bikes.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

The role of the artist is a big one. The artist is there to affect a person’s mind by introducing new ideas and concepts.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 2, 4 & 5  Lois Stavsky; 3 & 6 Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 5 is from Yes One’s black book; photos 2 & 4 (close-up) are from works currently on exhibit at the Pop Bar in Astoria, Queens; photo 6 is a collab with Shiro, Part and Meres at 5Pointz 

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The second in a series of blackbook posts features pages from the blackbook of the wonderfully talented Luis Zimad Lamboy, who began hitting the handball courts of the South Bronx over 30 years ago and is now getting ready — along with James Sexer Rodriguez – for his first Chelsea gallery exhibit.

zimad graffiti black book From Luis Zimad Lamboys Blackbook: Pieces, Tags and Characters

With tagged trains

grafiti train tracks black book From Luis Zimad Lamboys Blackbook: Pieces, Tags and Characters

With old school character and Jesus Saves tag

Zimad black and white black book sketch From Luis Zimad Lamboys Blackbook: Pieces, Tags and Characters

Art Junkie

zimad graffit art junkiein black book From Luis Zimad Lamboys Blackbook: Pieces, Tags and Characters

With Thor

zimadgraffiti character black book From Luis Zimad Lamboys Blackbook: Pieces, Tags and Characters

Homage to TD4

zimad graffiti in black book From Luis Zimad Lamboys Blackbook: Pieces, Tags and Characters

All images from Zimad’s black book.

Zimad, along with James Sexer Rodriguez, will be exhibiting new pieces next Friday, October 25th, 6-10pm, at Rogue Gallery Chelsea, 526 West 26th Street. Info and interviews with both artists to soon follow.

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KR.One Black Book Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

The first in a series of “Blackbook Pieces and Tags” features the work of veteran writer  Louie Gasparro aka KR.ONE. Over 30 years ago, KR.ONE was hitting the trains; these days he continues to make his mark on a range of legal surfaces from black books to canvasses to huge buses. His work will be featured in the upcoming Flip the Script Book Release and Art Show at Reed Space at 151 Orchard Street on April 4 and in a solo exhibit at 5Pointz on Saturday, May 11.

KR.ONE writes Kashmir 172

KASHMIR 172 in KR.ONE black book Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

Forty Deuce

FORTY DEUCE KR. One Black Book Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

The Lost Art of the Tag

The Lost Art of Tag by KR.One  Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

New York City Tag Style

NYC TAG STYLE KR.One  Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

DoomVader

KR.ONE DOOMVADER in Black book  Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

2Mint

2MINT in KR.One black book Blackbook Pieces and Tags: KR.ONE

All images courtesy of Louie “KR.ONE” Gasparro; the first image is KR.ONE for SAGE RTW

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