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the ZEPHYR thread

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The man Zephyr. This guy gots history and that classic NYC style. If you got em post em....

 

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THANKS FLOW.

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"Letter to the editor of The New York Times (unpublished), January 10, 1995:

 

On January 8th 1995, The New York Times ran an article entitled "When City Walls Speak". The story, written by Jennifer Bloom, "deciphered the hidden meanings" behind New York's street graffiti. It also followed the exploits of three anti-graffiti housing cops, Officers Cekada, Gonzalez and Ruiz. The Times has run a number of stories about graff over the last couple of years, many of which have been surprisingly fair and even. This story, however, was neither. Full of blatant inaccuracies and mangled theories, it was a sloppy piece of hack journalism bent on demonizing the culture. The following is my response to the article, which The New York Times refused to print:

 

To the editor-

 

Re: your article "When City Walls Speak" (The New York Times, City Section, Sunday, January 8, 1995. By Jennifer Kingson Bloom).

 

So, for about the hundredth time in twenty-five years the police are claiming to have deciphered the messages of New York City graffiti writers. This time their three top police experts are excited to announce they've discovered that we are, for the most part, drug dealers, gang members and murderers.

 

Possibly these young officers feel a need to add danger and mystique to their jobs by demonizing the thousands of disenfranchised kids, as well as many full-grown adults, who are putting their mark on the city. This slander campaign fits right in with the current administrations' portrayal of homeless pan handlers as life-threatening thugs. After all, it's the local police who are committed to enforcing the so-called "quality of life" with guns to the head. This is exactly the way two graffiti suspects were arrested in Queens last week-with guns to their heads.

 

Meanwhile, I'm sure subway commuters will be happy to know that the quality of their rush-hour commute is assured by The Transit Authority's anti-graffiti policy. One which yanks trains out of service, regardless of the subsequent inconvenience to passengers, if graffiti is discovered on the cars.

 

In the articles' glossary, a graffiti crew is defined as a gang. This is an interesting definition for kids with spraycans looking for a little local notoriety or a place to create. The mural, which the article pictured as an example of "gang graffiti," was identified as such because, you allege, a cartoon character is giving "a secret hand signal". You should be informed that the mural was commissioned by McDonald's and was done by the artist "Verse". He is not a gang member, and is unfamiliar with the gang you incorrectly associate him with.

 

A word to the police. I don't think your draconian tactics will wipe out graffiti. It also becomes increasingly clear that try as you might, you will never understand what graffiti is saying. Graffiti writers are saying many different things. But then again I suppose we're not talking to you.

 

Respectfully yours, Zephyr. New York Graffiti Artist."

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THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW APPEARED IN THE SPRING 1995 ISSUE OF "UNDERCOVER".

 

ZEPHYR. "Broader Than Broadway" Interview with Zephyr by Edward Morris

 

Zephyr was one of the pioneers of the New York subway graffiti movement from the late 70's to the early 80's. Today he has made a comeback to the scene, and proves himself, once again, a true graffiti legend. The following is an interview with Zephyr, given on his 34th birthday.

 

Q: When did you start writing?

 

Z: I started writing the name Zephyr in 1977. Before Zephyr I was writing "Kane," but the name most people knew me as was "Sky." I was playing around with graffiti for a few years before I ventured out to the playground to practice my tag on the metal part of the slides.

 

Q: How did you get the name "Zephyr?"

 

Z: From a brand of skateboards.

 

Q: What first got you interested in graffiti?

 

Z: Seeing it. Stitch and Snake, the kings of Broadway. The other Snake, Snake 131. All the original writers. Barbara 62, Eva 62, Michelle 62. When I was growing up I rode the trains and saw the graffiti. I have doodles as far back as '72-I was eleven-you can see I'm starting to play around with it. When I started I was doing "motion tags",hitting insides while the train's moving. "Bil-Rock," the writer who started RTW, was really into hitting trains. He was one of the guys who got me into going to the tunnels. Then "Mackie" got me into painting outsides. He really had to drag me, 'cause I wasn't interested in doing pieces. I was a tagger. When I first started piecing I really sucked, so it wasn't much fun. Besides, I figured in the time it took me to do a piece, I could do a lot more insides. Eventually I learned that to consider yourself a real writer you have to do outsides, you have to do insides, you have to do everything.

 

Q: Which train lines did you paint?

 

Z: I started on the Broadway #1 line. Once I exhausted that, I hit the RR's, the 6's, the 4's. When I hooked up with Dondi in 1980 I started hitting the 2's and 5's.

 

Q: Where have you done graffiti outside New York?

 

Z: In the '80's I exhibited my graffiti canvases in Holland, France, England, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland. I also went with Dondi and Futura to Hong Kong in '82 and Japan in '83.

 

Q: Was there graffiti in any of those cities when you first went there?

 

Z: Hell no. The only place to see "New York style" graffiti back then was in New York.

 

Q: What role did your going there influence the development of their "scenes?"

 

Z: Everywhere we went the local kids heard about it and showed up. Then they created their own graffiti movements.

 

Q: What do you see for the future?

 

Z: Personally, I'm going to stay active until it's not fun for me anymore. As for the movement, the answer to that lies in the individuals involved. I just hope writers can rise above all the bullshit. In general, we're going to see more and more of the merger between graffiti and the internet.

 

Q: Any parting comments?

 

Z: I'd like to tell people to stay political, and never underestimate the importance of what you do. Graffiti is a critically important movement in modern history. Have an open mind to what other artists are doing...If you have respect for yourself, you should respect them too.

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letter by zeph

 

Letter to The Village Voice, November 26, 1980:

 

In October 1980, Crash curated an exhibit at Fashion Moda called "Graffiti Art Success." I was privileged to be one of the artists in the show. The painting I exhibited featured a big red heart in the middle of the canvas. On the left of the heart was a clean train running straight into the heart. On the right side of the heart a train covered with graffiti was exiting.

 

The show was reviewed in The Village Voice by Elizabeth Hess, who described my painting in her article. The following week this letter was received and printed by The Voice:

 

Dear Editor,

 

Elizabeth Hess made a reference to a "painting" of a heart splitting a subway car in half-half clean and half dirty ("Take the A Train," Voice, November 12, 1980). That was done by Zephyr who (you claim) gets devious enjoyment from this. I am a T.A. car maintenance employee. My men and I have a big red pipe and we're ready to split Zephyr's head open (and anyone else). We are goddamn tired of burning ourselves with chemicals because of wanton vandalism, and until The Village Voice and others realize this and stop treating these two-bit assholes like heroes, this will never cease.

 

-Name Withheld, The Bronx

 

Wow! Although I never did find out if the letter was authentic or not, I felt it was so outrageous I had to respond. The line "wanton vandalism" didn't really sound like the writing of a car maintenance employee, but I figured I'd assume it was legit, and respond accordingly. The following is my reply, as it appeared on The Village Voice letters page on November 26th, 1980:

 

Dear Editor,

 

I wish that after trying unsuccessfully to combat dense subway graffiti for all these years, the Transit Authority would realize that the graffiti cannot be stopped, but only "legitimized." T.A. workers like "Name Withheld" [Letters, Voice, November 12] and his superiors alike who are fed up to the point of splitting youngsters' heads should remove their pipes long enough to realize that under controlled circumstances these "two-bit assholes" would make New York's grey and dirty subways the most exciting moving art spectacle the world's ever seen.

 

If the T.A., which chooses to view the graffiti situation as some kind of war, wishes to see it ended, they are going to have to at least negotiate for peace. Cleaning the cars will never end graffiti. A clean subway car gets recovered in a matter of days, or hours. The chemical warfare is a huge waste of time, energy and money. Graffiti writers won't surrender, and they can't and won't be beaten. If the T.A. wants the kids and their cans out of their trains, they're going to have to start thinking differently. We are a community of young people. An enormous group of people in a very loud city and we all want to be heard. We want to be seen. Our goal is not to vandalize or destroy, but to say "Hey you, look, I am here. I'm not just riding. I'm not just standing. I am on this machine. I am part of this machine. In fact, my name is carrying all you suckers to work!!

 

But not at the cost of creating chaos or huge financial waste. When the T.A. has exhausted all its money and energy, maybe they will try to negotiate with the ones out here responsible for all this "wanton vandalism."

 

-Zephyr, New York City, Nov. 26, 1980

 

Back then I was an idealist and an optimist. I figured graffiti on the subways would never go away. Boy was I wrong. Before the end of the decade New York subway graffiti was extinct. But as we know, it didn't die. It moved on...

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much respect..

 

i like the fact that this homie is putting in work on the freights now..

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those letter to the editor(s) are interesting.

 

this thread should grow by at least ten fold. . .

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another article by zeph

 

The Graffiti 1980 Studio:

 

"The Graffiti 1980 Studio", also known as "Esses Studios" was, in my opinion, a significant turning point for our culture. The following is an interview done by my good friend, Boston's SICK 156, explaining the details of this historic project. For years SICK had heard little bits and pieces about the legendary graffiti studio. Like all good reporters, he was determined to uncover all the details of how it came about and what really transpired. Subsequently, in 1997 he sat me down and picked my brain about the experience. The transcript has been edited for length only. Alas, some history is destined never to repeat itself...

 

-ZEPHYR

 

There was a newspaper at the time called The Soho Weekly. They ran an article back in '79 saying the subways suck, basically. It wasn't about graffiti. The subway system was in really bad shape at the time. So on the cover of the newspaper, they had a train that Revolt did. I think they meant for people to revolt against the subway system or something. A guy named Sam Esses was an entrepreneur, a wealthy fellow. I think what happened was that he saw it on the newsstand, but he didn't know anything about graffiti.

 

It just so happens that his daughter knew a bunch of us, the RTW boys. The Rolling Thunder Writers. So he brings the paper home to his daughter and says "Look at this photo. I love it!"

 

Well, this is 1979. People were already painting on the subway for 9 years, but he wasn't particularly aware of the movement. My man wasn't hip to it. He probably knew graffiti was on the subway, but he never really examined it or saw photos of it. I don't think he was a subway commuter.

 

So he shows it to his daughter. She takes one look at it and says "I know this guy". She knew Revolt. She knew me. She knew Rasta. She knew a bunch of us. And her dad, Sam, says "I want to meet this guy."

 

Well Revolt at the time was earning his degree at The Maryland Institute of Art. So he was away at college. I called him up and said "There's this guy who wants to meet you". Revolt comes to town and I bring him over to Sam's Park Avenue digs. Very posh. I don't think the doorman wanted to let us in. And we sit down and talk. Sam tells us his idea. He wants to preserve graffiti. He thinks it shouldn't be buffed off the train. We're trying to talk about the best way to "preserve it".

 

I tell Revolt this is some major shit. I think we should work on this.We're supposed to be in charge of this "graffiti studio". And it's gonna be fantastic. I can tell... I could smell it. And Revolt was like "I can't do this. I gotta go back to college". And I tell him "This is bigger than college. College can wait." But he did the right thing, he stayed in school.

 

So I called up Futura. I said let's talk some more to this guy. So Sam Esses decided to do this graffiti on canvas project. He said he would limit it to two months, and see what happens.After all, he didn't know what was gonna happen. No one knew. We were in uncharted territory. We knew about UGA and NOGA, but canvases weren't our thing. Trains were. So Futura and I ran this studio. We stretched all the canvases ourselves. That was a whole lotta blisters.We had to keep it stocked with paint at all times. We never knew who might drop by, and we had to be prepared. We baby-sat or whatever.. sometimes not very successfully. I mean sometimes shit got really crazy. Keeping the paint in the studio was impossible. Everyone wanted to rack it.

 

But in terms of everything that happened on and off the subway, the 1980 Studio had very much to do with all of it. No question. When the studio got set up, it was a very significant turning point. Through the graffiti 1980 Studio people all came to one physical location and networked and met. And even though there was the writer's bench, and the telephone, and some dudes did know each other, you'd be surprised, there was a lot of anonymity back then. Like, writers from different boroughs really knew each other's work, and maybe knew a guy who knew that guy... But generally a lot of us just never met. We'd be passing each other's wet pieces in the yard, but still-just happened not to encounter each other. So you had different factions. You had CIA from way out in Brooklyn. . And then you had Seen and the UA boys from the opposite end. From Pelham, way up in the Bronx. Like worlds apart.

 

So the fact that a lot of us didn't actually know each other wasn't exactly that strange, when you come right down to it. I mean by today's standards you would think, everybody knows everybody, but back then, it wasn't like that.

 

I'll tell you something about Lee. Lee was the most famous writer. The most respected. And the most elusive. Nobody knew him. He was a mystery. And he liked it that way. And he didn't want people to know him. And he didn't want to meet people. He wanted to be a secret guy. He came to the studio, though. What a surprise! No one could believe it. He didn't do a canvas, but he came by.

 

So everybody met at the Graffiti 1980 Studio. O.K. I mean, Crash knew Kel. Kel knew Dondi. And Dondi knew Duro. But, for instance, nobody really knew Seen. And we didn't know Dondi. I didn't know any of these dudes. I knew my guys. Guys from Manhattan basically. And some of the guys from the Bronx. THE MOB, Tracy 168, LSD OM, FDT 56, Stan 153. Our circles were pretty small, really. At the studio everybody met everybody. And at night, after a day of painting these canvases, what do you think we did? We went out and did trains together. And they were fantastic trains. We were inspired-the spirit was flowing! But best of all, we had all kinds of new incredible collaborators to paint with-and sometimes some pretty unlikely partnerships too. A lot of that period of train painting is what you see reflected in Henry and Martha's book "Subway Art". I don't think I'm overstating anything to say that the studio catalyzed a lot of what's in that book.

 

Everyone was very inspired in the spring and summer of 1980. And what happened was that the guys who respected each other's work from a distance actually started to buddy up with each other and hit trains together. And the results were some very interesting trains that I don't think would have happened otherwise. Because I don't even think the writers would have met. Lots of writers avoided the writer's bench. The real kings generally kept very low profiles. After the studio Seen was doing cars with Kel. Dondi went painting with Kase. I was painting with Noc. It was a great time for graff.

 

Everything really blew up big afterwards, and everyone was getting their piece of the pie, or trying to. There were a lot of people who deserved bigger pieces, and didn't get it. And people who got big pieces and maybe didn't deserve it. But when all the sensationalism was happening, and I would say in 1980, it was above ground, in the media, being exploited; It was being diced up and sold. But if you look at the pieces, and the dates on the photos, it was also especially happening on the subways. 1980 was such a tremendous renaissance period for IRT's for train painting. It was like this whole explosion because it was being fueled by all this sensationalism.. There was this whole new incentive, this whole new world above ground, for all its good and evils. You can't underestimate the role of the 1980 studio. It was a defining moment...

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Reflections....

 

I was born in 1961, and I've been drawing pictures all my life. At age eight I went through a phase where I only drew pictures of strange futuristic cars. By the good (or bad) fortune of my being a pack rat, I still have these drawings. At age twelve I went through another similar drawing obsession. This time it was a strange mixture of hi-tech / psychedelic looking guns with silencers. This was undoubtedly the result of too many hours spent watching early James Bond films and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Like so many visual artists, I have a passion for mechanical things.

 

As a kid, a ride on the subway was the urban equivalent of a trip to the carnival. The graffiti was not a symbol that the system was out of control, but a bold statement that we were in control. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The graffiti movement is the first and only art movement created exclusively by kids for kids.

 

Look at photos of the insides of the trains from the early years. You see a lotta color. The broad and varied palette was unfortunately later replaced by black. Sadly, the battle for space ultimately forced writing on the insides to resort to the use of the thickest, blackest ink possible. The early to mid seventies didn't suffer from this scenario. It seemed there was always room for one more tag. Pink, purple and red Sun Stag midi-wide tags. Orange and yellow two-tone combos. Killer. Even as the insides filled up with tags, the resourceful would always find room. Stay High would take down the paper ads and make perfect use of the perfect frame for his perfect tag-and later, "Voice Of The Ghetto." Wasp would tag the edge of the light fixtures. Save The Worker would grab the little spot at the end of the car above the two-seater.

 

Long before any of us ventured out onto the streets with our trusty plastic El Marko markers, we painstakingly mimicked in our notebooks what we saw on the trains on the way to school. We'd draw our names-bubble letter style-on the covers of our loose leaf binders. We'd try and invent cool sounding "graffiti names" for ourselves. They were inevitably lame. Very lame.

 

I don't think there was an exact moment when I went from graffiti observer to participant. I do remember stealing Dri Markers from art class and writing on the backs of the seats in the very back of the city buses. I put the "t" in toy. But from early on, I was obsessed with this strange need to mark things up. Sometimes I think the book "Harold And His Purple Crayon" was possibly a bad influence.

 

I spent a lot of years doing motion tags. Why not? I didn't know where the train yard was. One session of motion tagging I remember began at 72nd and Broadway on the #1 train and took me and Shadow, Spike Lee's younger brother, up to the Bronx and down to South Ferry. It was a Saturday afternoonÑthe Summer of '76. We smoked pot between the cars and wreaked our adolescent brand of havoc. It was days like that when I got a little taste the "real" world of graffiti that seemed out of reach, but beckoned nevertheless.

 

Lee's wholecars fucked me up. When I saw "Heaven Is Life" "Earth Is Hell" I was never the same again. I had to get a taste of that action and I just didn't know how. All the older or more experienced writers I knew were a disappointment. Instead of guidance and encouragement I got discouragement and ridicule. And I knew some pretty cool writers. By '76 I had met Clyde, FDT 56, LSD OM, Fuse, Steve 161, Cheetah 2, Malta and a host of other notables. But no one was anxious to have anything to do with a little putz like me, and I can't say I blame them.

 

A few of us young upstarts from "the bandshell" eventually organized ourselves. Living in the shadow of the generation(s) before us wasn't getting us anywhere, and we couldn't postpone our inevitable futures any longer. Bil-Rock was our inspirational leader. Possessed with the kind of fearlessness that bordered on lunacy, he had the qualities needed of a true graffiti general. At first he wasn't Bil-Rock. He was Sage and Grunt. And from the book about the Native American chief, he dubbed his organization The Rolling Thunder Writers.

 

An early roll call of the crew, circa spring '78, reads like this: Hunt, Hughie, NE (later known as Min One), Sauron, Rasta, Sag 3, Mackie, Earth, Revolt and myself. That was our humble beginning. We grew quickly. Within two years there were members in RTW that hadn't met each other. Within three years RTW was the largest graffiti crew in the city.

 

There's no way of telling what would have happened if Bil-Rock hadn't galvanized us as a unit. It was Bil who ventured into the 137th street tunnel and rushed back to us at the bandshell to announce in no uncertain terms that the "Ali burning incident" hex had been lifted. The #1 tunnel was free of ghosts and awaited us with open arms.We happily accepted the invitation, and soon made the legendary tunnel our home away from home. Our careers as "real graffiti writers" had begun... Some of us did graffiti for a few months. Some of us did it a little longer..

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In Flames...the Zephyr on the holy roller...who is that next to him? The silver piece with the fed purple splashes coming from the center with the snow on the ground is HOOOTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!! And yeah he does have a super dope hand...his tags are definatly in the top 5 of all time!!! Here is a funny pic of Zeph with the can he got from me. :clown2: http://www.metalmaned.com/images/random/zeph.jpg'>

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