From subway walls to gallery walls.
Five graffiti legends are reliving the 1970s — sans the vandalism, police and barbed-wire fences — with a new show at the FiveMyles Gallery in Prospect Heights.
“These guys are a handful of the very few original writers who wrote on trains,” said curator Frank Godlewski. They are pioneers.”
The show, “Street Art Legends Collective,” will feature Albert Mercado, aka Lava I&II; Jaime Ramirez, aka MICO; Richie Admiral, aka Bama; Joe Lopez, aka Clyde; and Eddy Salgado, aka Flint 707.
But now, they’re being hailed as bona-fide artists — a far cry from what they were considered back in the day.
“We were considered criminals,” said Bama. “We want to have that door open, for people to understand we’re not criminals, we’re not dangerous and that, no, we’re not going to rob you.”
These writers, or bombers, as they were also known, were teenage kids from Brooklyn and the Bronx who literally made their names on the side of subway cars in the most ostentatious and colorful script one can conjure from a can of spray paint.
“At first it was just names,” said Bama. “Then we took those names and made them prettier. It went from simple print to more elaborate styles and then we added more color, backgrounds. Then it became 3D and we started blending the colors.”
For them, it wasn’t about gangs and it wasn’t about vandalism, at least, not for vandalism’s sake — it was about fame.
“Seventy-five percent of the youth who grabbed a magic marker or some spray paint and did a tag did it because he or she wanted to become famous,” said MICO. “If you were from Brooklyn, if you were from my neighborhood and we both rode the D train and it had big MICO tag on, they would tell you and they would know your name.”
The gallery will feature around seven–10 works from each artist, as well as several collective pieces, in which six canvases are arranged together, like a brick wall, on which the artists paint in tandem in homage to their work during the ’70s.
“This is the closest thing you can get on canvas in 2011 to a subway car writing,” said MICO. “When you looked at the subways and you saw all the names on the subway cars, it was a collective thing. This canvas is essentially the same idea.”
FiveMyles Gallery [558 St. Johns Pl. between Classon and Franklin avenues in Prospect Heights, (718) 783-4438], Dec. 9–11. For info, visit www.fivemyles.org.
Reach reporter Colin Mixson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-4514.