Phoenix Artists MAC, KAPER, and SUCH Featured in Upcoming "History of American Graffiti"
Their history and experience plays a major role in who they are now -- writers (in the literary sense) and publishers of some of the most well-known graffiti and street art publications in the US including While You Were Sleeping and Swindle.
On April 5, the two will release The History of American Graffiti -- the result of four years of documenting and interviewing more than 500 graffiti artists who shaped and paved the way for an explosive contemporary art form.
|BASER with Katrina Waterline|
|photo by BASER, courtesy of Caleb Neelon|
|ICH Freight (2004)|
|photo by SPEK|
"[The book] was a daunting task," says Neelon, "neither of us had ever been to some of the cities we hoped to document, so we relied heavily on people we knew in those cities and whose names were synonymous with graffiti's growth in the area."
The history of graffiti in Phoenix gets a two-page spread with mentions given to writers including MAC, SUCH, KAPER, SWIFT, and FICE, as well as big and small crews including PCP BOMBERS, NBS, OBN, and MKT.
The relatively small section tells SUCH's experience with seeing early gang writers in the 70s and 80s thoughout his south Phoenix neighborhoods, as well as the the rise of work on trains and walls, despite the city's strict laws and fast-acting anti-graffiti clean-up crews.
Gastman and Neelon both note that Phoenix was a surprise -- neither had spent time in the city and didn't know much about the scene, or even that there was much of a scene before talking to local artists.
"We were lucky enough to convince a lot of the guys out there to dig through their closets and contribute tons of photos they had taken of their work," says Neelon. "And some people took a lot of coaxing ... some of them had painted these walls 25 years ago and this was the first time they were ever asked to share anything about what they had done."
|Courtesy of MAC|
He began experimenting with spray paint, which he says was incredibly limited compared to today's art stores that have walls dedicated to the medium, and was hooked. MAC has since "graduated" through the street art system and is now commissioned to paint murals worldwide.
Neelon says his biggest surprise were the re-occurring patterns and themes that were echoed throughout the country.
"Graffiti was a sense of local pride ... it helped push a community dialogue," he says. "And these artists often moved on to create legal work and murals that still play a huge part in their cities' histories."
The History of American Graffiti will be released on April 5. For more information, check out the Harper Collins website.