Posts Tagged ‘graffiti’



[Pic of Andy Warhol with Basquiat both weating boxing gloves]Jean-Michel Basquiat just amazed me to be frank.  He was almost the same age as me, but his life couldn’t have been more different; his life was complicated and truly deserves the description, “amazing”.

He died of an heroin overdose in 1988, and I heard the news when I was in London.  As a tribute, a bunch of us trekked around the rougher parts of town to look at the graffiti. It was one of the most bizarre nights of my life — but I won’t go into that here and now.

They said that Basquiat never got over the death of Andy Warhol the previous year. And although we didn’t know it at the time, but Keith Haring was to die of AIDS in the next few years.

[Picture of Samo graffiti by BVasquiat -- on cancer testing on animals]For me, rightly or wrongly, Basquiat and Haring represented street art elevated to “high art”.  What was happening with dance seemed to be echoed in art.  Break dancing and body popping on the street gained international recognition along with BMX bikes, skateboarding and — finally — proper graffiti.

It was the next big thing in the art world. And it represented a break from the tradition of education and established art world. This remains the case today; many professional and acclaimed artists have no formal training.

Basquiat (as SAMO) was a black impoverished going-nowhere fast kid in New York who started spraying graffiti — and it got noticed by the TV stations.

[Colour painting by Basquiat for gallery]Basquiat went from a homeless, abandoned street urchin who had been run-over and left for dead, to a feted neo-expressionist artist and mate of David Bowie and Andy Warhol. Jeeezo — he even dated Madonna!

The branded suit was discovered in the early 1980s , and Basquiat used to paint in a very expensive Armani suit, getting it covered in paint, and still wear it out to clubs! Brilliant.

Basquiat was rich, successful, famous, and of his time.  We were all getting on with our brick-sized mobile phones, shoulder pads and talk of “loadsamoney”.  It was excessive, and Basquiat died from overdosing, some say from his lifestyle.

I was not really a fan of his work (I much preferred Haring’s), but I recognised the importance of the man in raising graffiti to an artform.  Without Basquiat, we would not / could not have Banksy.

[ Samo graffiti -- confusing life]




RICK GRIFFIN was another hero and huge influence on me and my generation.

[Picture of Rick Griffin's Murphy Comic]Griffin, Mouse, Kelley and Robert Crumb were they guys we all wanted to be, man. We all got technical pens, Staedtler Mars and Rotring pens or rapidographs, and started doing our own comics in the new style that was inhabited by Fat Freddie’s Cat and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

[Picture of Comic Strip by Griffin: Murphy]I guess most kids today would associate “Cowabunga” with Bart Simpson, but it was Rick Griffin’s “Murphy” that coined the term way back in the 1970s. His impact has been so great that “Griffin” is today a surfing area in California, USA.

“Murphy” was a big influence on comics and comic book artists, of that there is no doubt in my mind. If you look at how Rick drew Murphy’s hair, it is plain that this style has informed Dennis The Menace and even the Fat Slags from Viz!

[Picture of Griffin artwork: Murphy Sez] [Picture of Dennis the Menace] [Picture of Fat Slags comic by Viz]

It was in his later psychedelic period, along with Kelley and Mouse, that we discovered Rick Griffin — through the artwork he did for the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne and Man.

[Picture of Grateful Dead Album Cover] [Picture of Griffin's Jackson Browne Bonnie Raitt LP Art]

[Picture of Man album cover] [Picture of Grateful Dead Album: Blues for Allah]

I was always struck by his lettering; he seemed to have a way with incorporating the words into the work. Griffin and Roger Dean were the big influence here.

I would say that Rick Griffin has been massively influential in graphic art — lettering, fonts, typefaces, logos and even tattoos and graffiti!

I would go further and state that Griffin has been one of the most powerful and influential artists that have ever lived.

If you think about it, there is a close association between bands like The Grateful Dead, and bikers like the Hell’s Angels.  An entire sub-culture has adopted Griffin’s skulls and lettering — for decorating vans, motorcycle petrol tanks, helmets, leather jackets, tattoos and graffiti.  This has bled into today’s diverse scenes — such as from Hip Hop to Marilyn Manson — from Rappers and Sk8ers to Goths, and Moshers. The biker theme has moved into heavy metal, and Griffin himself worked on album art for bands like The Cult.

  • UPDATE: 2009-05-12: Just this year, Rick Griffin is THE designer accessory in the world of fashionable shoes for BMX, Moto-X, and Snowboarding — check out Vans and Vault — especially Vans.Vault 2009 Collection.

[Picture of Grateful Dead cover art]I can even see stuff Griffin did that must have influenced HR Geiger (and therefore the style of Alien films and loads of Science Fiction). Monochromatic, filled with skulls and bones, yet somehow mechanised by being in mechanised scenarios, if you see what I mean.

Oddly enough, especially when you consider all of the above, what Rick griffin did next was a real surprise — he became a Jesus freak!  This caused a great fuss in the comic book and album art world at the time — not a lot of people could get their heads round that one.

Here’s an interesting article about Griffin as a Christian Comic Artist — at:- Strangely enough, another hero of mine — Dudley D Watkins was a huge cultural figure, comic artist and Christian comic artist.  Weird.

A really good gallery site is maintained here:

Finally, and even though Rick was killed on his Harley back in 1991, he somehow still has an “official” website: