On Urban Art Legends by KET

February 15, 2016

The following post is by Houda Lazrak, a contributor to StreetArtNYC and recent graduate of NYU’s Masters Program in Museum Studies

Urban Art Legends, by the renowned graffiti writer, photographer, curator and author Alan Ket aka KET, presents 39 engaging profiles of key urban artists, along with photos of their significant works.


After a concise and informative introduction, in which he terms urban art as “this other art world,” KET introduces his readers to such pioneering and influential artists as ATOME, Futura, JON ONE, Lady Pink, Mode 2, Os Gemeos and Saber. Included in the artist profiles are: essential career highlights, defining artistic features, style evolutions, crew associations and specific creative projects, along with the artists’ engagement with the fine art world.

We learn, for example, that in addition to painting train graffiti, DAZE exhibited alongside Basquiat and Haring at NYC’s Mudd Club, lectured at universities and designed a train station — with Lee and Crash — in Germany.  Iconic musicians such as Madonna and Eric Clapton have purchased his canvases and numerous museums in the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands have added his paintings to their collections.


Crash, KET notes, pioneered the graffiti movement’s relationship with the gallery world with the exhibit, Graffiti Art Success for America, that he curated at Fashion Moda in 1980. He has since exhibited in museums throughout the world and partnered with a range of companies on varied projects. And he is now, once again, active on the streets.

KET also selects some 20 artists — including Sane Smith, Risk and JON ONE — to whom he awards  “legendary status.”  We discover, for example, that Sane Smith was sued for three million dollars for painting a work visible for miles on NYC’s Brooklyn Bridge. Risk attains “legendary status” for being the first Los Angeles writer to paint a NYC subway train when he visited in 1978. And KET confers legendary status on Paris-based Harlem native JON ONE for receiving France’s premier award, the Legion of Honor, for his contributions to art and culture in France.

jonone=graffiti-Le Départ

KET also seamlessly links the two worlds of street art and graffiti by telling the stories of individuals — such as Ben Eine and Os Gemeos – who have dual identities as both graffiti writers and street artists.

Urban Art Legends beautifully captures the diversity of artistic practices found in our cities — from subway trains to galleries and back onto the streets. KET’s enthusiasm and passion for urban art pervade these pages as he writes that “justice cannot be done to all those incredible talented individuals who have informed and advocated” the urban art movement.

Urban Art Legends certainly comes close, as it offers readers a solid grasp of over three dozen of those individuals who have significantly impacted the urban art scene.


Published in the UK by LOM ART, Urban Art Legends is now available online and in most NYC bookstores.

All images courtesy LOM ART:

1. Book cover, designed by Jamie Keenan; Nick Walker, 2015, Photography by Paul Green

2. CRASH, panel piece on subway train, Bronx, New York, USA, 1980. Photography by Phade

3. JONONE, Le Départ, spray paint and acrylic on canvas, 600 x 300 c.m., 1994, Speerstra Collection

4. ATOME, Sydney, Australia, 2014. Photography by artist

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Known for his iconic life-size stick figures that have surfaced throughout the globe, East London-based Stik has attained celebrity status with Random House‘s recent release of his first book. While in London last month, I had the opportunity to speak to the artist.

When did Stik first surface? And where?

It was back in 2003 in Hackney Wick along the canal.  It was the safest place to paint at the time.

Can you tell us something about Stik’s origin? What was the concept behind it?

I came up with the idea of six lines and two dots simply because it was the quickest way to paint without getting caught.  My first Stik drawing represented my struggle to find shelter and survive. While homeless, I had lost all my drawings. Anything I could get up on the streets could be seen, at least, for a time.


How did folks respond to your work at the time?

They liked it. They could identify with it. It especially spoke to lonely people.

How has Stik evolved since it first surfaced?

At first I only painted lonely people.  It was my way of reflecting on my personal struggles. Then as my circumstances improved, I became involved with causes and the figure changed as its context changed.


What are some of these causes?

Homelessness, gentrification, the National Health Service, underground cooperatives and more.

Your new book, simply titled Stik, is currently a best-seller in London.  What was the concept behind it?

It is a journal of the progression of the Stik project.


Your book is so stunningly presented and has gotten such wonderful press in London. When did the idea of first publishing a book come to you?

In 2010, while living in a homeless hostel, I was writing a monthly column for the Hackney Citizen that included a mural related to a news story. I did this for a year, and it made me think about articulating meanings.

Any plans to visit NYC?

Yes! I plan to visit NYC in the spring.


That sounds great!  We are certainly looking forward to seeing you again in NYC!

Photo credits: 2. Tara Murray 3. Dani Reyes Mozeson 4-5. Lois Stavsky; interview by Lois Stavsky



Penned by London native David Sharabani aka Lord K2, Street Art Santiago is a fascinating foray into 14 neighborhoods within Santiago, Chile. With his stunning photography and revealing conversations with the artists, the author presents us with an intimate, striking portrait of an historic capital city.  I recently had the opportunity to meet with David and ask him a few questions.

Street Art Santiago is quite amazing.  When did you first start documenting street art?

It was in 2012. I was on vacation in Bogota, Colombia, and I was struck by the texture and quality of the pieces on the walls there.


You’ve been quite passionate about public art since. I’m a huge fan of your site the Museum of Urban Art. What other cities have you explored?

I’ve also photographed street art in Buenos Aires, São Paulo and here in New York City.


Why did you choose the street art in Santiago as the subject of your first book?

I discovered so many distinct styles that I loved, many representing the rich political and social history of the city.  And I also felt a special bond with the Chilean artists whom I met. They love to share walls, and they love to collaborate. They invited me to paint with them, and they are extraordinarily humble.


You have a formal education in art. Did what you see on the streets impact your work as an artist?

Yes, after a few months in Buenos Aires, I was inspired to learn how to do stencil art. And I’ve been doing it since!


What were some of the challenges you faced in producing this book?

I was working with an inexpensive pocket camera. I was new to graffiti and street art, so I lacked any credibility. My knowledge of Spanish was limited. And I didn’t have a clue as to how to publish a book.


You seem to have brilliantly overcome these challenges. What’s next?

I’m off to Thailand at the end of the month where I will be documenting another kind of art, the art of Muay Thai, Thailand’s principal spectator sport.


What about street art? Any other books on the way?

Yes, my next book will focus on the street art in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

That sounds great!  Good luck with it all!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos: 1 Piguan 2 Piri 3 Salazart 4 PiguanPiri & Guztok 5 Grin, Cubdos, Derik & Sick 6 Brillos Graffiti Crew 7 Jony


shida-vexta-street-art- melbourne-dean-sunshine

With his keen eye and infinite passion, Melbourne-based photographer Dean Sunshine avidly documents the graffiti and street art he encounters in his hometown and beyond. His second, newly-released book, Street Art Now, is a first-rate chronicle of the art that has been surfacing  — not only on the streets of Melbourne — but in other cities across the globe that Dean has recently visited. I met up with him when he was in NYC this past fall. Soon after, his stunning second book Street Art Now made its way into print. 


Have you any early memories of Melbourne graffiti and street art? When did you begin to photograph it?

Graffiti and hip-hop sprouted in Melbourne in the 80’s with VHS copies of Style Wars being handed around, educating the kids here about these subcultures thriving in NYC. My first piece of graffiti art was a present for my 21st birthday in the mid eighties — a basketball backboard spray painted by Merda and Ransom – two of the stars of the Melbourne scene. Decades later this piece still hangs at my home and many of the writers who are now mates are surprised and envious of this original piece. I started taking photos in the early 2000’s.

Wane-COD-graffiti- melbourne-Dean-Sunshine

What motivated you to do so?

I loved snapping all this amazing art seen on the streets, but it was actually my partner at the time who told me I was a fool to have thousands of images on a hard drive that nobody else could enjoy. She said, “You should start a blog,” and the Land Of Sunshine was born.


Adnate-street-art Melbourne-Dean-Sunshine

How do you find the time while working at a day job to photograph so many great pieces of street art, blog regularly and publish two books?

I find time during my daily grind in the rag trade driving around to appointments across the suburbs of Melbourne visiting textile factories. On these travels I often stumble over graffiti and street art, and I pull over and take a quick shot. On the weekends I often hunt out abandoned factories, get down into the drains, and search new lane-ways — always on the lookout for new work.

shida-seth- globe-painter-street-art-melbourne-dean-sunshine

Do any particular moments stand out in your street-art hunting expeditions?

There are so many highlights throughout my time documenting. I have met, hung out and I’ve been privileged to watch so many incredible artists in action including: ROA, Kid Zoom, Herakut, Hush, D*Face, Stormie Mills, Rone, Makatron, Adnate, SlicerLi-HillShida, Smug, WANE, Sofles, Kaff-eine, DEB, Heesco, Meggs, Reka, Phibs, Bailer, DVATE, Does, Twoone, Mysterious Al, Dscreet, Vexta, 2501, Faith47, DALeast, Pixel Pancho, Phlegm, Insa, Sirum, The Yok, Sheryo, Gaia, Alexis Diaz, Maya Hayuk, Crash, Daze and ELK. But the times I have spent with Futura, Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper stand out the most, as these three are the pioneers of this scene in which we find ourselves submerged. I got to take each of them around the streets and lanes of Melbourne, proudly showing them my favorite spots in my own hometown. Such absolute legends, all with a passion that has lasted decades. I wish I will be as passionate 25 years on!


What brought you to NYC?

I came to New York this past September to keep my wife company who was shooting fashion week. (Yes, she is also a photographer!) As she went uptown each morning to the shows, I got on my pushbike and rode all over, snapping as I went.

kaffeine-li-hill -street-art-NYC-dean-sunshine

What other cities have you visited?

Over the last years, I’ve been lucky to have travelled to Los Angeles, Hawaii, Berlin, Paris, Italy, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and even Perth. It’s funny how these days it’s a priority when I’m on holidays to track down and snap all the local art I find. My recent book, Street Art Now, documents some of these findings.


What’s ahead?

Well, I am soon to become a father so my priorities will change — although I will probably be doing the same, just with the little guy on my back.

KEITH HARING- mural-1984 -Dean Sunshine- Melbourne

Congratulations! I am quite certain you will.

Note: You can check out some local coverage that Dean’s recent book, Street Art Now, received here, along with a guided tour of the Melbourne scene by Dean here.

Photos of above artworks in Street Art Now:

1. Vexta and Shida in Melbourne

3. WANE in Melbourne

4. ROA in Melbourne

5. Adnate in Melbourne

6. Seth GlobePainterShida and TwoOne in Melbourne

7. Pixel Pancho in Perth

8. Li-Hill and Kaff-eine in New York City

9. The Yok and Sheryo in Zicatela, Mexico

10. Keith Haring in Melbourne, 1984


Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Genea Barnes began exhibiting her artful photography in 2005. Her current work has taken her into the streets of over 50 cities where she has photographed hundreds of ghost bikes. 

"Genea Barnes street photography"

When and where did you begin photographing ghost bikes?  

I saw my first ghost bike in Brooklyn in May 2010. It struck me. It felt like someone had punched me in the chest. That was the first ghost bike I photographed. I’ve since traveled to over 50 cities photographing them.

"Genea Barnes photography"

Why — do you suppose — you became so committed to this project?

I feel a special connection to these bikes. I am taken by their intense beauty. Their impact was — and still is — tremendous on me. They remind us of lives that were lost and they remind us to keep safe. I knew, at once, that I wanted not only to photograph them, but to share my findings with others.

"Genea Barnes photography"

Have you any particular message you would like your photos to convey?

I am frustrated by people’s lack of spatial awareness. A ghost bike represents the most grievous outcome of this. A ghost bike, like much of  street art, is a way to call people out. We must all start paying closer attention to our surroundings.

"Genea barnes photography"

Why a book?

I had always hoped that my art would make a difference…that it would raise awareness. And after my first exhibit of ghost bike images, I knew that it could. Not everyone will attend an exhibit, but anyone can check out a book and, hopefully, be moved by it.  We are so distracted by technology that we often forget to pay attention to our surroundings. And the outcome of that can be fatal.

"Genea Barnes photography"

You can find out more about Genea’s remarkable photography project here and help fund her book at her Kickstarter here.  


"Michael Alan"

Earlier this fall, the wonderfully talented multi-media artist Michael Alan released a book of selected drawings and writings. With the limited edition just about sold out, Michael offers some insights into it all.

Why did you decide to publish this book?

I am tired of artistic control. The government. The police.  Most outlets for publication.  I am also tired of solo shows in New York. Super stress to basically make some dumb money and hear people talk about beer. So came the idea of the book. My work is too intricate for the web. It needs to be in your hand. People need to slow down. That’s what books do. They slow you down. I also wanted my friends and fans who can’t — or don’t want to —  buy a painting to be able to own a handmade affordable piece. The book is a work of art.  And I’ve been sick. In case something happens to me, I don’t want anyone rewriting my mind.


How did you decide what to include? 

Kristen Collins chose the works. She is a lovely, brilliant artist who made this possible. She is passion.

"Michael Alan"

What are your personal favorites and why?

They are all my favorites. My work is about change. Energy. Life. These differ every day. That’s why I work in multiple styles.

"Michael Alan"

How have folks responded to the book?

The response has been great. It’s attracted a range of fans – from as far as Australia. We had only gotten the word out on Facebook and Instagram, and we are almost sold out. This will be the first blog to cover it.

"Michael Alan"

If you are interested in owning a signed copy of the book, you can contact the artist at

All images © Michael Alan 



Researched and edited by Ryo Sanada and Suridh Hassan of Studio Rarekwai, Stickerbomb Skulls is an extraordinary collection of skull stickers certain to appeal to those of us who love street art. Ranging from the humorous to the morose, the stickers included in the newest addition to the Stickerbomb peelable sticker book series encompass an array of styles and cultures.  And as Finland’s  Micke Nikander – whose image is the first one featured in the book — suggests, the skull is the one thing we all share as it “follows us from cradle to grave.”

Micke Nikander


Colombian artist Matacho Descorp

"Matacho Descorp"

Australian artist Mike Watt

"Mike Watt"

Singapore-based artist One Two Delta


Welsh artist Mr. Kobo

"Mr. Kobo"

Here in NYC, the Stickerbomb peelable sticker book series, published by Laurence King, is available at StrandBarnes and NobleMcNally Jackson and at the Museum of Modern Art Bookstore.

"Stickerbomb Skulls"

 Book review by Dani Reyes Mozeson; first two stickers — Run DMC & the Notorious Big — by Japanese artist Motohiro Nezu



The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak, a graduate student in Museum Studies at New York University.

Last October, the British stencil artist Banksy paid an unexpected visit to New York City. And fervently chronicling the elusive artist’s daily workings — during his month-long residency —  was writer and photographer Ray Mock. The founder of Carnage NYC, Mock presents — in Banksy in New York — a comprehensive and insightful account of the month that captivated us street art aficionados, along with so many other New Yorkers.


For each of Banksy’s pieces, Mock offers a short narrative, providing insights into the various sites and neighborhoods, as well as into the artworks and the reactions they elicited. Each account is complemented with a range of photographs — from selected close-ups to shots of strangers’ poses with the pieces.


In addition to chronicling the pieces that surface throughout the month, Mock shares first-hand insider anecdotes.  We follow him on his adventurous rides to the designated locations and we meet some of the others out there  — who, too, are obsessed with locating and photographing every Banksy piece that appears. Mock also offers us intriguing background information. He recounts, for example, how a half-joke by a local resident to charge for photographs of the East New York beaver stencil resulted in a price tag of $20 for each photograph shot that day.


As Banksy’s pieces — particularly those that are politically-motivated — are contingent on location, the local viewers’ reactions and interpretations are part of the process. Banksy’s piece, Ghetto 4 Life, in the Melrose section of the Bronx, for example, did not go over well with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, who had loved Banksy’s previous Ronald McDonald installation.


Despite all the attention Banksy’s residency received in the media, Mock provides us with something that was lacking — an overarching personal account of Banksy’s legacy on this city’s urban and social landscape. We speculate, along with Mock, on Banksy’s possible intentions and we embrace the artist’s uncensored creative expression.


In addition to the limited edition of the book — with a screen printed cover —  which can now be purchased via Ray’s site, a new hardcover edition will be available for pre-order on his site starting on November 3. It will also be in bookstores by Thanksgiving.

All photos by Ray Mock



The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak, a graduate student in Museum Studies at New York University.  

To the discontent of many, the corporate advertisements plaguing the urban landscape have become integral to our every-day visual vocabulary.  As a response, street art is often offered as an alternative platform to reclaim public space from the impersonal iconography of corporate publicity.  However, Philadelphia native Stephen Powers has employed that very language to empower his own personal vision.

"Stephen Powers"

A Love Letter to the City tells the tale of how artist Steve Powers’ witty lettering and profound insight turned advertising on its head.  Authored by Powers himself, the book is a visually astonishing compilation of his large scale public art projects in cities across the globe, such as Philadelphia, New York City, Dublin, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg.  With each chapter focusing on a metropolis, the book illustrates the artist’s engagement and collaboration with local communities and art organizations to “reflect their collective visions and dreams… to make art for the people.”

Powers’ outrageously honest introduction retraces his debut into the graffiti world under the moniker of ESPO in Philadelphia.  In first-person narratives, he highlights his experiences and encounters that propelled him to the status of acclaimed public artist.  Readers are treated to his eloquent personal recollections, as well as captivating photographs of his beautifully executed street art pieces.

"Steve Powers aka ESPO"

Steve Powers’ employs signage style graphics to produce poignant conceptual pieces, ranging from single word slogans to multiple line phrases. The publication’s images bear witness to Powers’ ability to marvelously blend colors into the pre-existing urban hues.  Prior to hand-painting site-specific murals, Powers deeply immersed himself in the spirit of each city.  He embraced the values and needs of communities, deciphered central issues of local histories, and appreciated the soul of its neighborhoods.

"Stephen Powers"

In Coney Island, Powers worked with local citizens to revitalize an abandoned space into a sign shop/social club. The shop produced street signage for the inhabitants free of charge, which served to invigorate local businesses, as well as to enhance the community’s visual landscape.  In another instance in Dublin, Powers altered his design plans when he saw a neighborhood recurrent tag: “Please call me, I am home, the door is open, ” followed by a phone number.  Inspired by the message of love and loneliness, Powers then created a mural that spoke to similar concerns.

"Stephen Powers"

A Love Letter to the City provides invaluable insights into the creative mindset of a unique street artist.  It sheds light on the back-stories of his sign pieces, from his improbable conversations with passersby to the formally held community meetings.  Ultimately, the book illustrates how Powers and his team remarkably wove intricate typographic art into the fabric of multiple cities around the world.

All images courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press


 The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak, a graduate student in Museum Studies at New York University. 

Currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York through September 1, 2014 is the exhibit City as Canvas. To accompany the splendid exhibition featuring pivotal selections from Martin Wong’s exceptional graffiti art collection, the museum released a book by the same name. Edited by exhibit curator Sean Corcoran and cultural critic Carlo McCormick, it features hundreds of images, along with essays from experts in the field and artists’ recollections.


City as Canvas – New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection, the companion publication to the exhibitis a fascinating window not only into the graffiti that surfaced in the 80s, but also into the life of artist, collector, curator, and visionary Martin Wong.  A San Francisco native of Chinese origin, Wong moved to New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s.  Immediately inspired by the surge of graffiti, he at once sensed the creative value of the then teenage-run art movement. Wong’s collection documents the roots of the graffiti movement in NYC and the evolution of writing styles through the 1990s.


In his introductory essay, Sean Corcoran, Curator of Prints and Photography at the MCNY, explains how Wong championed young graffiti artists by befriending them, collecting their works and ultimately opening a museum dedicated to the art form (Museum of American Graffiti).  Essentially, Wong acquired artists’ black books and requested canvas reproductions of their street pieces – such as Lee Quiñones‘s iconic Howard the Duck, originally painted on a Lower East Side handball court wall. He also secured — what he considered to be — significant canvas pieces, such as Lady Pink’s Maniac Depression.  These reproductions form the bulk of the Martin Wong collection and are presented in the second section of the book, alongside biographies of twenty plus instrumental graffiti artists.


As does the exhibition, City as Canvas spotlights the young graffiti artists’ black books. Perhaps the collection’s most prized pieces, these books illustrate the process through which the young writers honed their skills and shared their styles. The publication features full-size pages of sketches and tags by artists such as Zephyr, Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring. True to the original sketches, the pages contain minimal color enhancement and retain their ancient paper background shade and old coffee stains .


Finally, artists such as Lee Quiñones, Daze and Sharp share recollections of their first encounters with Wong. These unique testimonies illuminate Wong’s passionate personality and demonstrate his impact on legendary graffiti writers.   Quiñones remembers his friend telling him: “Just when it all seems done, this is when I am going to buy,” a sign of his “wholly commit[ment] to supporting our work in a difficult time.”

"Martin Wong"

Overall, City as Canvas provides an impeccable overview of the Martin Wong Collection treasured in the Museum of the City of New York.  The publication’s splendid aesthetics and stimulating essays serve as a vital introduction to graffiti art, as well as an indispensible document for aficionados of the iconic movement.

All images from City as Canvas, New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection © 2013 Museum of the City of New York, Inc. 1. Book cover featuring Lady Pink mural; 2. John Naar, Graffiti Kids, 1973; 3. Lee Quiñones, Howard the Duck; 4. Zephyr, black book; 5. Peter Bellamy, Martin Wong, 1985