November 19, 2013.
Do you know that you can't fly with spray paint? Of course not it's a pressurized can and that is on the not allowed list. So what's a guy to do? Well for SLIP KID who lives in Albuquerque, NM and wants to paint in Miami during Art Basel do? He drove it with a truck load of spray paint. It was an long haul to say the least. SLIP got up with an old crew mate of his from back in the day, KAS.
For those of you who don't know SLIP was there in the beginning. So sit back and get ready for a history lesson.
AK: What do you write? Are you in a crew?
SL: I write Slip3, Slip kid, I am in the MPC(Morris Park Crew) crew and happen to be one of the founders. The MPC crew was started in the fall of 1977 in the Bronx, New York. It was catapulted into the world spot light by it's most famous member CAP in the 1983 P.B.S. documentary “Style Wars.”
AK: In what city did you start painting in the streets? Do you feel your work has influenced the community in return? If so, how? Is there a relationship between the artist and the community in which they work?
SL: I started painting or should I say tagging in the streets of the Bronx primarily my neighborhood of Morris Park. Shortly thereafter other areas. Then buses and finally with the guidance of an older kid John 150 of the Crazy 5 crew I put my name for the 1st time on a New York City subway train.
As a 13-15 year old kid my work certainly didn’t influence communities. In fact it probably pissed them off. It wasn’t for them, it was for other graffiti writers to see. I don’t think your average person could even understand any tag but, writers knew it,. That was the extent of my thought process at the time. My biggest years based on dates were 1979-1980.
Fast forward 27 years later and yes! I’ve been very fortunate that my work has influenced some communities that I’ve worked in based on the content and the involvement of that community and that in itself is a blessing after that amount of time without producing any art. There is definitely a relationship especially if it is a commission piece that has input from the community. Or your doing something on your own. As an artist you try your best to accommodate yourself and hopefully in the end there happy. Now someone else might be like F!@k that!! I”M AN ARTIST! Funny but, as you get older you mello and realize you got compromise a little, and there paying.
AK: Did you go to school or are you self taught?
SL: I did take some fundamentals in high school. For the most part I learned from others.
AK: How did you get started in the arts and why?
SL: When I was a young kid I was fascinated by cartoons and would draw quite a bit. As I got into my late teens, I thought I would somehow do something regarding art. I had a book of letters I drew that led to a first paying gig doing a sign. It came out horrible! But, the owner still was nice enough to pay me and it inspired me to do better. The true catalyst for me came by way of the infamous Tracy 168 whom I lived with. He was a true innovator and the 1st graffiti writer that I knew of that was doing commission mural work with spray paint. He was the 1st person to instill in not only me but my brother Ace5 that we can sell canvases with graffiti art. We thought he was crazy! But, he wasn’t. He was one of the handful of graffiti writers of the early 1980’s, along with Blade, Seen, Crash, Daze, Cey, etc. to exhibit graffiti as an art form. He helped elevate the art form to where it is currently. Some of which I witnessed. But based on choices of drugs and alcohol I couldn’t even remotely participate and went down a long and unnecessary road for years to come.
AK: How long have you been working in the streets?
SL: I've been back since 2008 so 5 years.
AK: Who or What inspires you the most?
SL: So many it would take a page itself. To start the people I grew up with that I can remember seeing their work on trains. Fast forward all these years and a handful are doing positive things regarding art which is motivating. All the newer generations from Europe, Australia, New Zealand. There are no shortage of talented people worldwide that is for certain. A great many things color, shape, sculpture, big, out of the box, urban, pop, simple, surreal, portrait. Most everything that’s engaging really. Even if it’s not my cup of tea I can still appreciate the effort.
AK: What should the general public know about street art? What stereotype about street art/graffiti do you hate the most?
SL: That’s an open ended question. The public should know art in general is positive, in most cases thought provoking, provides visual stimulation, it changes aesthetics of blighted areas, improves existing neighborhoods and can bring communities and businesses together. It can provide revenue and engage youth. The list goes on.
My opinion Street Art has become the pretty/gentrified word that‘s convenient for certain people to use too bring acceptability to an art form that really derives from Graffiti. Case and point, say to an owner of a business, I would like to create this street art on your wall. He or she shows some stencil of some Tibetan monk with some rainbow colors and there like, sure! I’m obviously half kidding, but now go up to the same owner and say, me and my boys want to rock some Graffiti burners on your wall. Shit! They’ll be like what? What's a burner?!
As a 50 year old man, I'm in favor of whatever elevates the movement forward and brings the art to the people in whatever title or flavor of the month they want to give it, but as a graffiti writer personally I can’t stand the defining of all graffiti writers as “Taggers.” That’s like me saying all street artists ability to create is contingent upon the stencil they use. It's bullshit! Now, back to Taggers it should be noted that there are graffiti writers that don’t give a shit about street art or even graffiti writers that have the audacity to try and emulate street art. And don’t talk about painting anything legal because to some you’re not a writer if you do. To that group you’re a sellout.
That mindset is hard for most to relate to, but I can, because I did it. That’s a young man’s game. As you get older and real life responsibilities of kids, house, income start kicking you in the ass. It’s time to reassess, does it feed my family or put a roof over us? Does it put money in the bank? I mean if your goal is to be the most recognized graffiti writer by other graffiti writers then have at it. Let me know how that’s working out for you when you’re in your 30’s.
AK: Are you a full time artist? Do you have a day job? Is it best to be full time artist or not worry about it and make your $$$ elsewhere, that way you can paint what and how you want, which one offers a more creative outlook?
SL: No, I’m not. I’ve been in a position where I’ve been home for periods of time. I found I couldn’t create on demand nor does the demand for my work put me in a fiscal position that affords me the luxury to be a full time artist. For me it almost works better having a job which I like. It’s more comforting also. I function better being busy with other interests as I'm sure some full time artists do too.
The thought of being in a studio everyday producing work for personnel gain to say “I’m an artist, look how great I am, ha!” It would be like going to the dentist that’s just me. I mean you’re not discovering a cure for cancer, you’re doing something for the most part that in one way or another has been done before. For those that don’t kudos! but, there few and far between. Now Personally I would feel more productive as a human creating with a group of like minded individuals that makes positive changes within society as a whole through whatever media, art, music, social work whatever. Again, that’s just me.
I’m content and realistic knowing that this is a glorified hobby for me. I’m by no means going to set the world on fire, but I can contribute to it. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many goals I’ve set for myself not only with art but, my life as a whole. I’m very lucky to be alive today and fortunate to live quite comfortably. I grew up with a lot that didn’t get to enjoy that luxury. There are over 20 in our crew. I was gone for 20 something years regarding art! I wrote a book, I worked with and met some great people, Made some extra money. I’ve had a signature spray can, I mean how cool is that? Most importantly I’ve have had fun along the way. I do paint what I want. You can look at my lettering and my canvas work. I’m all over the place because I’m inspired by many things. The mural stuff I've had to compromise a little. But, if I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have. I guess that is one of the comforts of having a day job.
AK: What are you working on now?
SL: I’ve been working on a bunch of canvas and some design type work for 2014. Then I will try and get out there and network a little more and figure out what direction to go. I still deal a lot with the book MORRIS PARK CREW. In answering questions and some possible future projects that have presented themselves. I’ve also been working on a few murals representing a local spray-paint company called All City Paint based here in the Albuquerque area. They were kind enough to do a signature spray can for me so I’m trying to reciprocate. I’ve had a couple of offers to work with at risk youth and some other community based projects. So, I’m quite busy.
AK: What do you hope to achieve or accomplish by putting your work in the street?
SL: Just to spread the word about spray can art. There is so much ignorance towards it by the general public. But, I’ve found once you paint something average citizens can relate to, they are much more open about future projects and Graffiti as an art in general. America as usual seems to be behind the ball when it comes to a lot of things about progressive-art, music, etc. compared to places like Europe which seem to be much more accepting of the ideas. It helps that I’m in a unique position with my background and what I currently do to communicate with the younger generation and the politics of a variety of communities..
AK: What was it like to be around in the infancy of the graffiti scene?
SL: In brief, during the late 70’s early 80’s it was mind blowing! Some of my best childhood memories for sure. I can remember being fascinated by the cool nom de plume names in my neighborhood and elsewhere like SUPERKOOL 223, BLUEBEARD 183, ELMARKO 174, PRESWEET, PNUT2, TRACY168, CLIFF159, COMET, BLADE. The list goes on with just cool names! Who were these people? How did they do that? Where do they paint the trains? There were so many questions?
It was a huge underground movement that we later discovered was a melting pot of different ethnicities that had the goal of getting their chosen name and crew up. From racking paint, tagging, to painting trains, which can be a scary experience for a 13-15 year old especially when the trains are parked in a long dark tunnel called the Esplanade.
But what an exhilarating experience the first few times you went. I remember the smell of the paint as you entered the tunnel. You might meet some of the writers in person. If not you could have seen their wet freshly painted pieces which prompted a Damn! Or, look at that style! Or they were just here. Shit! Maybe we’ll see them on the way out or maybe we’ll get raided by the Vandal squad? Maybe you’ll get jacked for your paint? You never knew who you’d roll up on. Forget about the fact that you spent the better part of the week trying to rack (steal your paint) from a variety of stores from Martin Paints uptown in the Bronx to Pearl Paints downtown.
You can’t forget a whole other venture of stealing fat caps. I mean, how are you going to look sitting there in the yard filling in your piece with a stock cap? That required competing with all the other heads in a variety of supermarkets for caps. They came by way of a Niagra spray starch or your Jiffy foam oven cleaner. When all is said and done and you finally got to the yard would you be able to execute the piece you drew on paper with spray paint? No! Because you’re a toy! A beginner .Will my mother find out? I really didn’t sleep over my friend’s house. I broke night curfew to paint graffiti on trains.
Benching trains with your crew mates, talking about girls, cars, smoking weed, drinking 40’s, looking for the pieces you did the on the weekend or during the week. Looking at all the other writers work. All under the classic remix background music of the era of Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the rain, Ring my bell, Miss you, Hot stuff, My Sharonna, The closer I get to you, Rappers delight, We Will Rock You, The Message, that is just a memory flash of the time capsule. For a couple of actual tales refer to the Morris Park Crew book.
AK: Were you making/manufacturing your own gear back in the day?
SL: I don’t think sticking a needle in a stock cap qualifies, so no.
AK: What should we know about the early days?
An ode to the pioneers. it was fun, it was hard! Some new school cats are so sick of hearing it. It’s like taking a boring history class. But, it’s the truth and you need to know! That in today’s world of internet gadgetry, insta this, insta that, most of today’s writers don’t work for shit! You non-history having mother fuckers have no clue! You want it now! You get it now! If you don’t, you whine about it! Poor fucking YOU!!! From your Stencil, to your outline of style that you stole from the latest aerosol legend from bum fuck nowhere, to pulling out a credit card to order your paint from a palette of colors that exceeded any of the last century’s master artist dreams, you just don’t know!
Then to add insult to injury because your just not sure between the style you stole and the low pressure paint you ordered overnight that it will make you next month’s internet Graff wizard! So just to cover all bases you order two dozen variety caps. Caps by the way that never existed in the “early days”. From a hairline outline to the fat cap that is the circumference of my social studies teachers’ globe. Then you have the audacity to show up to a wall and ask neighboring homes and businesses for permission to utilize their electrical socket so you can plug you’re fucking projector in. Because, god forbid you have to actually eyeball something to figure out some dimensions! That might overload your aptitude to actually fucking figuring something out on your own! Noooooo! You need color by fucking numbers!
Yeah I’m talking to you! Yeah you and you! The next, Banksy, Shepard Fairey wanna-be’s That think well, they did it why can’t I? Why? Because they had an original thought, fuck wit! You on the other hand are an asshole, a copy cat, a fucking Fugazzi! Just like once upon a time struggling artists turned newbie gallery owner/ broker who have minimal understanding of the culture but, capitalize fiscally from the very people that created it. Now if that is not a culture vulture what is? Or the one’s if it weren’t for mommy and daddy’s money would probably be taking it in the ass due to the series of petty crimes they would commit to supply their drug habit based on their in ability to deal with the real world.
Yes, the real world. Not the one where they act like they have a profound understanding of art and culture that to them consists of a hobby and riding the dick of the newest quote “Street Artist!” If that’s not bad enough get a couple of drinks in them at some social event and all the sudden boom! They're Superman! They get a little froggy and think well? I represent a Street Artist, I must have an understanding of the street! Maaaaaan!!! You don’t have an understanding of shit! You non-history having motherfuckers have no clue! You don’t understand the very foundation and history of where it all came from.
So let me break it down to you, Dartanan!, Once upon a time there were some adventuresome group of adolescents that in most cases weren’t privy to or didn’t have the means to attend art school. It started in Philadelphia and was developed in New York Late 1960’s-late 1980’s these individuals decided to express themselves in a manner that included choosing a fictional name, within that name are letters of the alphabet which became the template of which these individuals developed and reworked over decades and made their own. The tool of choice was “spray paint. Now most didn’t have the resources to buy their spray paint so they decided to (slang word) “Rack it or Steal it). Where would they paint these names? Well, some in obscure areas of the city some not. It was done in the most primitive of ways called single hits or a tag.
That led to tagging most any objects, rolling or not. Then of course the New York City Subway System. Which became the premiere billboard for young aspiring artists. As the time went forward so did the progression of lettering and style. Gone was the original single letter hit style which now developed into a bubble letter style. By this point early 70’s some writers decided that character examples, ie Yosemite Sam, Beetle Bailey, Stick Man (no names do your research) alongside their names would bring additional flair, it did.
So, what started as a tag randomly placed on the car grew into a double outlined letter. Then a bubble letter, later the basis for the Throw Up. The quickest way to get your name around with the least effort. That grew to writers manipulating the letter with shadows, 3D, arrows, bits etc. Later that style of lettering became known as “Wild Style.” Now window down planned letters and color schemes were the norm. That eventually gave way to planned out whole car productions. Some of which could have been witnessed at a variety of stations most famous of which was the gathering hole of the 149th Street bench. Where writers would take images, socialize and exchange tags or styles in the their black books.
Now with the spike in growth of different writers from different areas of the city, coupled with the inherit dangers of traveling alone. It only made sense to create a group or “CREW” normally consisting of writers from an area or a reputation or self imposed image of themselves, ie The CRAZY 5, The FABULOUS 5, The MAGNIFICENT TEAM (TMT) United Artists (U.A.) etc. Going into the 1980’s with the influx of more writers and crew’s and the diminishing amount of train space to paint. It became an inevitable breeding ground for beef between writers and their crews. The beef varied from territory, respect, rules, to outright dislike. Unlike the watered down versions heard today, the reality is some cases turned quite violent via your typical beat down. It turned into getting stabbed or shot and although not often, even death.
The writers of the early years were ingenious in many regards starting with contributing to the advancement of the letter, the planning and preparation it took. Most of which to have their names(art) seen. They went through a myriad of obstacles some of which and aren’t limited to, racking paint, no one bought paint! And trying to rack it. Based on the theme/drawing they had planned prior to going. Sneaking into the yard hiding from work bums(employees of the Transit system), hiding from the oncoming trains themselves depending on what side of the layup you were painting. You never quite knew if that was the train and at night if you were going to get raided by the Vandal Squad. Also, being aware of the 3rd rail you didn’t want to get electrocuted. You didn’t want to be rolled up on by writers who you or your crew had beef with or even if you didn’t, they just wanted to jack your shit just because they could!
These of course are just some of the experiences that took place! It inspired music and movies like Style Wars, Beat Street, Wild Style and books like Subway Art, Spray Can Art, to name a few. It inspired the largest worldwide movement that has produced some of the best artists in the world. This all took place during a time and era that no matter how hard others try to emulate, it can never be replicated again! In the big scheme of things there were only a handful that, lived it and I’m fortunate to say I was one of them!
AK: What can you do now with your work that wouldn't have been possible 30 years ago?
SL: Well for starters I was always stoned and intoxicated when I painted back then. The amount of detail based on today’s technology of low pressure paint, tips, and the abundance of references on the internet. In comparison to 30 years ago it truly is apples and oranges.
Check out more of Slip's work http://www.slipkidesigns.com/