Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Graffiti 365 - Jay "J.Son" Edlin (et al)

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

A sub woofer resonating rumble and Richter scale registering tremor signalled newly published book Graffiti 365 crashing through the letter box today. 365 graffiti artists, 2 inches of pulp and about the same weight as a newborn baby, you could use this book to barricade your door.

On the surface it’s a simple idea beautifully executed. 365 double pages each having a large photo on one side, waffle on the other. That’s 730 pages of awesome photos and writing, heads will enjoy it and new initiates will learn much.

(PS -excuse these photos, I had to use Lady NoLion's camera and the bloody kids think it's ok to put it way with a totally discharged battery, these 3 pics were all I got)

The content is part historic record, part contemporary survey, part graffiti and part street art. The graff history aspect skews the national representation to a North American bias but in terms of current writers and street artists, the survey represents quite even-handedly Australia, Europe, UK (no, I don’t need you to point out where we are on a map) and Latin America as well as the US.

Most of the pages feature writers and their crews or artists but just as interestingly we get J.Son & Co.s’ insights from the graff culture coal face. The book mixes ol school subway kings and their crews with new era street artists with brief tutorials on technique, vocabularly and ancient legends of benches, yards, galleries and landmark events that milestoned the birth and adolescence of the graffiti movement in New York. Among loads of things I never knew, I never heard before about writers going into the yards where decommissioned trains were stored prior to being dumped in the ocean (really? C’mon NY...all that shit can be recycled) and doing nostalgic “scraps”. Sounds like substituting Tesco’s own brand for Coca cola - a slightly pussy copy of the real thing.

NOGA (Nation Of Graffiti artists), NY 1978, photo Michael Lawrence

Martha and Henry contribute extensively of course but the photos that excited most were those of Jack Stewart, capturing 1970’s chaotic explosions of tags and pieces in colours and styles that to today’s eyes look rough, ready and wild.

[photo sometime soon - see above]

Zephyr writes the opening blurb and reports that the book’s author J.Son has experienced a lobotomy-like conversion in the process, he now sees some point in some street art. And that to a large extent captures why this book is worth reinforcing your shelves for. A battle hardened writer, a there-at-the-genesis graff head steeped in tunnel mystique and whole car yard missions has filtered the graff he loves and the street art he respects. He draws the genetic link between the two and if it qualifies to be in this book then it has been passed fit for consumption by a real graff head.

Piece by Rasta, Character by Revolt, photo by Pjay One

The book condenses colour, atmosphere, history and style into a very easy read with an un-hectoring style. It smoothes over the fault line between street art and graffiti in a way that will introduce many a polarised graff or street art bigot to the merits of the other form. A superb achievement.

Warning, if you like reading in bed and gently falling asleep with a light novelette gently resting on your nose, you are going to wake up with a black eye with this book and….. PROPER BLOODY FONT SIZES PLEASE I can hardly read fucking VNA these days and needed a telescope for photograph labels in this book. There is real knowledge to be gained from knowing when a particular painting was created and where. I will even confess that knowing who took a photo can often reveal something about the era, the location and the circumstances under which the graff was likely to have been created.

By the way – I don’t feel any obligation to mention that I am honoured to have had a few snaps included in the book, because I have no interest at all in its success or otherwise, merely a belief that if you need help selecting a graff book from the landfill graff photo albums available today, then hopefully this little write up could help you (see also – Crack and Shine and Subway Art).

Monday, 15 August 2011

God Help Us - It's Ronzo

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

Slightly disappointed with the location of this one. My first reaction was this should be located somewhere that spoke more of the nearby Square Mile of profit hungry soul destroyers. Instead, it’s pretty much at the entrance to the yard housing his studio, a fact he can hardly hide given the number of times he has been seen outdoors applying finishing touches to super-sized Ronzo bugs and monsters.

Ronzo casting

Then I realised that this spot is also a portal to the dingy alley which leads past the new location of Crunchie the credit crunch monster, recently displaced from its elevated position overlooking the den of indulgent economic greed in the City. Perhaps my dis-satisfaction with the location of this new little sculpture is merely a manifestation of my disappointment with the neutered irrelevance of crunchie’s new nest. It now munches its coins while overlooking the organic craft stalls and pop-up cantinas selling any foreign cuisine you like so long as it comes with rice or in pitta.

Ronzo - Pink Crunchie

And why is he now pink? Is Ronzo savagely fingering the gay economy?

The latin motto cast into the new Ronzo coat of arms is open to a number of translations. Domine adiuva nos speaks of a master, god or leader, whose protection, aid or favours we seek. In other words......”Lord help us! City of Ronzo”

Let's look on the bright side, it’s still a new street Ronzo which is usually a good thing and if you doubt us, check out his 2009 Crunchie campaign which was truly top notch.

P.S - Crunchie The Great in his original location:
Ronzo - Crunchie

Friday, 12 August 2011

Time Bomb

History. What is it? I wasn’t there!

Moving to London in the early 80s I contrived to miss graff’s heyday because (a) I cycled everywhere and (b) I couldn’t stand hip hop. Some things never change. Today on my ride home, a chance encounter with a door ajar allowed a glimpse into a hidden time capsule of ancient tags from some home grown legends.

Tox Cut Myth Camo

Let's play a game popular on flickr called Guess Where London. Show you know your history, tell us the name of the location where these photos were taken. No prizes.

Tox Cut Myth Camo

Sadly, clip clop cycling shoes and an unlocked bike outside meant I couldn't explore further. Booo. Still, we love clandestine photo missions and when they are also impromptu - even better. I think I have seen this particular stairwell on a youtube clip somewhere, or is it in a book, I couldn’t find it – anyone know?

Tox Cut Myth Merks

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Curly – Sticking It Up ‘em

London has witnessed a surge in statement based illegal art in the past year or so, not just letters or mere words but often whole sentences and even punctuation. Elbow Toe scribbled haikus; Mobstr stencilled witty check lists; Ron English pasted up dis-embodied private secrets in speech bubbles and thought balloons. There has even been a very polite voice on lurid mini stickers urging us to “Please be nice to each other” and “Please say please thank you”. You may be thinking “basic information - graff worships the font, dude” but what we are talking here is a bombing mode that unlike graff eschews repetition, each intervention an original.


Chief protagonist of this prosaic prose vandalism is, let’s not quibble about definitions, sticker artist Curly. In a movement that lionises those most “up”, sticker artist Curly has captured a safari park’s worth of attention in the past year with more than a 1,000 wordy pronouncements stuck on street furniture all over the World. His stickers have the air of insider jokes, very market aware, very art joke infused, very tuned in to sensitive matters impacting a street artists’ credibility yet at times his thoughts betray an air of self-effacing vulnerability.


Getting wind of a planned Summer visit to the UK, Graffoto managed to secure an interview which the sticker prince elected to conduct via his preferred media, the United States Postal Service label. Curly led Graffoto a merry jaunt around London and into one or two tensely balanced and rather risky situations, we hope you find the results worthwhile.

We start with the most important issue – have you ever been busted?

Only by the NYPD

Another answer that nearly got your photographer in the pooh after the artist legged it: Is it ok to do stickers if you can't skate?

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Skateboards are for suburban pre-teens

The answer to “Will stickers ever become appreciated as graffiti?” had me wondering if this Curly character was out to get me lynched:

Why would anyone want that? Graff is for pussies. Art-fags have balls

Pressing on with the interview, do you know Banksy?

You mean in the biblical sense? Yes of course. But I make him wear a mask, so I have never seen his face

Should stickers be political?

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If that sells

Do you think it is important for stickers to have a message?

Conceptualism is a vastly over-rated concept

Are all your stickers installed illegally?

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Technically this is illegal but nobody cares

Will stickers ever become appreciated as art?

Only by those boring enough to care

Should street stickers be protected by perspex?

Perspex is a perfect surface to get up on

Do you think a sticker artist will ever have a solo gallery show?

If you can’t get a solo gallery show, you’re not really an artist

Could any of the candidates in the US presidential nominations benefit from a sticker campaign?

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I would love some free pizza from Herman Cain

When did you get into stickering

Last Week

What makes a good location for a sticker?

Wherever a good photo can be taken

The best graff writers get to paint naked girls, would you consider stickering girls?

Curly gets his girl
Only on really big ones

Any technical tips for aspiring sticker artists?

Take amazing photos and post them to flickr

Is There Room For Humour On Stickers?

Only This One (Respekt IZM - no proper graff was really harmed in the making of this interview)

Is there a hop-hop/graffiti style link between stickers and music?

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I listen exclusively to Leonard Cohen

Fine point or chisel tip?

What ever is handy

where did you get your name from?

The logo came first then I needed a name. It was between “Curly” and “really poorly done cursive f”. The logo came about because even a talentless toy could write it.

(yeah – Graffoto had to google cursive too, means “joined up” ). Any views on the absence of stickers from Museums?

What absence? I’m in Art In The Streets in LA

Will museums not truly represent the commoners art until they have a Curly in their collection?

Museums will not truly represent the elite until they have a Curly in their collection

Are you a disciple of Jenny Holzer's Truism-ism?

I’m a post-truist but I’ll always tell the truth

How can we convince Graffoto’s reader that you are the original Curly and not just some kind of wannabe copiest?

My style is unique and impossible to imitate

We conclude this interview with a quaint relic of innocence illustrating Curly’s failure to grasp the dog-fuck-dog nature of the street art “market”, at his request we include this sticker grovelling to someone he’s never met:

He’s not a sticker guy, but this interview concept has been blatantly stolen from Lush, so he probably deserves a shout out

Hunting for suitable spots for “Curlies” resulted in the discovery of ancient and weathered Curlies south of the river and way out West which Curly himself had forgotten. Cap doffed at that level of getting up. Cynics and moaners constantly gripe about street artists prostituting themselves putting up lame commercial shit in the usual art bordello locations. In the process of giving this novel interview, Curly vandalised property on Fed stations, post boxes, tube panels (window down!), HOFs, museums and art galleries. What was most impressive was that Curly went all-city EXCEPT Shoreditch – avoiding the most boringly obvious location for a publicity seeking street art whore to get up, way to go!

Curly In Action, possibly.