Confessions of a One-Time Graffiti Artist
When Christina Varga said she wanted to show graffiti art this summer, my heart skipped a beat. Varga heard a famous graffiti artist was living in Woodstock. The artist, an original NYC graff pioneer named LSD-Om is living here now and I knew how to find him. We soon discovered LSD-Om had eschewed gallery representation in the past "because graffiti is an act of unlawful artistic expression." Now, he was ready to show.
Varga is a successful artist and gallerist. She has become Woodstock's doyenne of flavor specializing in visionary artwork. Her interest in NYC graffiti art sparked me on as did her offering me the title of "curatorial associate" for the first ever graffiti show in the Hudson Valley. Naturally, I first thought of Steven Hager, father of my kids (edits High Times) who wrote HIP HOP: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music and Graffiti (the first book on the subject). Steve is the journalist who first put the words "Hip Hop" into news circulation, too, quoting Afrika Bambaata. I hoped Steve might give a talk. Next, I lent Christina (a Florida native who briefly lived in NYC) a cassette labeled "TAKI 183" and a copy of PUBLIC ACCESS by Ricky Powell.
In 1983 (age 17) I went bombing with ZEPHYR and SHADI, spray painted my tag on Crosby Street in SOHO. In retrospect, my unlawful act is fair revenge (see Soho now). How did a mother of two get so bad? Must be a gift granted to city kids who survive living in the wildest city in the Northeast, the ability to follow innate interests and explore them with a pack of funky friends – OUR RITE.
TRACY 168, REVOLT, CRUNCH, RICKSTER, TEAM, FUTURA 2000, FLINT..., GERB, STASH, HAZE etc. are GRAFF pioneers and GODZ I've met and love like brothers. So they're outlaws, but you don't know their real names. They are artists. Their expressions are eye-popping and beautiful. Graffiti is the look of today's global sound, which transcends time, nationality and culture.
I have a pulsing memory still thinking about NYC GRAFFITI. In 1989 Carlo McCormick and I visited LA together for the opening of Jon Sidel's "Small's.” Carlo and I hit the sprint car races at Ascot with Suzanne and Robert Wiiliams, Dread Zeppelin at Club Lingerie, El Vez's exhibit at Gallery La Luz de Jesus, lunched with rock legend Lee Michaels at his restaurant in Santa Monica; we visited our friend Michael and his girlfriend at one of the Surf Punks parent's house in Malibu (laughed our heads off for hours in a tiny beach shack.) I stayed at Paul Rachman's, Carlo crashed at Top Jimmy's. Funny, we didn't even have a car. We had such a good time I neglected do any work transposing a 90-minute HAZE interview I had taped. Carlo was on deadline too. On the redeye back to NYC we were cramming. Back then Carlo was handwriting, cutting and pasting sheets of ruled paper with a metal blade. Carlo worked fast. I admired his process, I wanted to learn it and give a great HAZE interview to PAPER. I've always thought graffiti was interesting.
Fast forward to 2007, showing now: VARGA Gallery presents: "NYC GRAFFITI ART" featuring works by: LSD-Om, REVOLT, FLINT..., ZEPHYR, KR-One, TEAM and WHISPER through September 9th. Special Event and Closing Party (open to all). Saturday 8 September at 3 p.m. GRAFFITI TALK with Steven Hager, Carlo McCormick and the ARTISTS. NYC GRAFFITI ART is curated by Christina Varga with curatorial associate Stacy Fine. VARGA Gallery, 130 Route 212, Woodstock, NY 12498.
Images by TEAMTweet