‘Street Art’ Category

July 17th, 2010

Happy Birthday Vaughn Bodé

I first heard of Vaughn Bodé thanks to my school friend TK aka SnatchOneskiRocker an original all round B Boy, graffiti writer, DJ and breaker who now works in music. In 1989 TK painted this fantastic lizard at the 3 Corners Hall of Fame in London.

Starting with artists like Seen and Dondi in New York, writers have been reproducing Vaughn’s characters on trains and walls the world over since the 1970s. His vast body of work can be found in books with names like Deadbone Erotica and Junkwaffel populated by characters like Harry in the Amber Block and Cheech Wizard. His remarkable cartoons are crude, philosophical, grotesque, beautiful, sad, mean and often very funny.

The Bodé legacy is looked after by tatooist and cartoonist Mark Bodé – just 12 years old when his father passed away on July 18 1975 at the age of 33.

See my light come shining brightly is a moving account of Vaughn’s life by Bob Levin.

Vaughn Bodé, Happy Birthday to you, wherever and everywhere you are.

All images copyright Bodé. Photo of Snatch character copyright Toby Howell.

Zooks and out.


July 1st, 2010

Rammellzee (1960-2010)

“…The letters are weapons. Instead of Orson Welles stating that the books will be burnt, the books will stay there. The letters have left the page, and once it went up then they had better be ready to fly. It was our competition, called the burners, that made those letters get so bad, so dope, so illuminating them bastards actually ended up with wings…”

The flamboyant and mysterious sculptor, graffiti writer, art theorist and MC, Rammellzee, passed away in Queens, New York on 27 June. Like many, he began his career by writing his name on the trains and walls of New York in the 70s. He went onto become an MC, and is featured on the microphone here at the grand finale of Charlie Ahearn’s film Wild Style. Rammellzee progressed to sculpture and performance art, taking on a complex and intriguing persona who camouflaged himself just as the graffiti writers camouflaged their work. Read his New York Times obituary here.

Here he describes the evolution of graffiti in an outake from Style Wars by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant:

June 26th, 2010

Blu – Cocaine Skulls

Italian artist Blu recently painted this extraordinary piece on a rooftop in central Bogotá. A besuited white hand reaches out to chop out lines of “cocaine” from a pile of white…skulls. The image could be reproduced and plastered across bars and nightclubs in Europe and the USA. This is not an admonition on the rights and wrongs of drug use, but a reminder that the cocaine industry weakens democracy and fuels violence and corruption, not least in rural Colombia, where the skulls have been piling up for many years. Think before you buy before you chop before you sniff.

In London is a place that has the mysterious name of Meanwhile 2. It is a concrete ditch and skatepark that has been skated by Londoners and visitors since it was created at the end of the 1970s. Tucked away under the  underbelly of an overhead motorway and looking over a central railway link into West London, this graffiti strewn playground is a far cry from the sanitised modern pay-to-skate Playstation park up the road.

During the 1980s Meanwhile 2 was where indie skate heads and inner city urban youth confraternised and fought under the rumble of the traffic overhead and the whistle and roar of the trains alongside. Pioneer west London graffiti writers such as Cazbee and Foam passed by, while the authors of fanzines such as Skate Muties from the 5th Dimension (from Bristol) and members of pioneer UK skate band The Stupids from Ipswich ate chips and fell off their boards.

In the middle of all this a UK based American called Steve Wiltshire put on competitions called The Smell of Death, events that united the various tribes under the banner of skateboarding, beer and a punk soundtrack that was not to everyone’s taste. In September 2009 a photograph of a Smell of Death competition from 1986, covering an entire pillar of the Westway,  mysteriously appeared at Meanwhile 2.

October 2009:

January 2010:

May 2010:

[Original photo: Michael J Wilson]

I’ve been wanting to publish something about the Cape Town based artist Faith 47 for some time. So I sent her some questions, including one about what the word “culture” means. It is a word that is wide open to so many interpretations. Here is her (unedited) answer, nutrition for thought at this peaceful coming together of nations that is the World Cup:

i see culture as a double sided coin..

– on the one hand it unifies..
it creates a sense of community and a value system with customs that allows for a community to exist in harmony with its surroundings..

– but on the other hand it separates..
it creates a sense of other.. of those not within your own culture – it alienates you from others and their value systems… resulting in things like patriotism and xenophobia.

i grew up in south africa where i never felt a belonging to any culture or religion…
this was sometimes unsettling but it forced me to see things objectively and to decide on my own ideas on life
– which are always changing…

so the breaking away from culture can be liberating
– and we see that in the sense of the punk movement for instance
as they were [be it consciously or unconsciously] breaking away from a stagnant system that was based on economic global domination and also a value system of empty consumerism etc..

the breaking away of culture can also be very destructive when we look at it in the sense of the effects of the loss of traditional cultures to western consumeristic cultures.
and the pull of urbanization on traditional cultures..

and then there is also the problem of traditional cultures not developing with the times..
customs such as female virginity testing, labola, having many wives.. these practices create conflict between the urbanised youth who cannot or will not fulfil these practices and therefore creating friction with older generations.. these kind of situations result when the initial motivation of the custom gets lost and distorted due to the dynamics of modern urban living..

so i think the word ‘culture’ is a very complicated and loaded thing.. unifying and destructive depending on what you’re looking at..

but one thing is true and that is that humans are instinctive creatures of culture.
so there is something inherently human about culture.
it would be best if we are able criticize and evolve our own cultural value systems on a continual basis…

Photos, courtesy of the artist, from Faith 47’s series “The Freedom Charter” .