MARE 139 INTERVIEW
©2001, 2003 @149st Do not republish without permission.
Where and when did you start (on trains)?
I started writing in 1976 while attending grade school in the South Bronx. I didn't officially hit the lines till '77.
Did you have a particular inspiration or mentor(s)?
LEE TF5 whole cars got me curious and interested in writing, I was inspired by many many writers of the era, IZ, CAZ, SLY 108, PUMA 107, BOX TOP 149, SHORTY 13 who had incredible hand style, these and many more were the cats on the 6 line that I looked at when I started. My style influences came from NOC 167, PART 1, CHAIN 3, SNOW 1, KEL139, DONDI, MIN ONE, CRASH ONE, KOOL TDS, SLAVE TF5 and others.
What borough are you originally from?
Spanish Harlem, but raised in the South Bronx.
What lines have you hit?
Where were your favorite locations to paint?
One Tunnel because of its history and it was the one lay-up where you really had to prove yourself because of the caliber of talent hittin' the line. I loved Gun Hill Road lay-up because it was an elevated lay-up that extended from a double platform and you had the T-Connection Club downstairs blazin' with the latest rappers and DJs of the day. I also was fond of New Lots because of my connection with DONDI and DURO. 225th Street Lay-up was one lay up I hit a lot too. The Ghost Yard had to be my all time favorite yard, you could literally go all city in one night because they parked every line there for repairs.
What crews have you written for?
TKA - The Kool Artists- K56 (KID 56) started that crew and KEL and I joined and became partners with him for a while.
CIA - Crazy Inside Artists- DONDI and DURO started this crew out of BROOKLYN and when KEL hooked up with them via K56 the crews combined efforts to get up from the Bronx to the Brooklyn.
ROC - Roc On City- ROCSTARS- Started by COS 207 and SHY 147 (rip) uptown in the Bronx, KEL and I were feelin' them when they started bombin' hard so we went lookin' for them and connected and became family, this is above all crews the one I will always represent.
RTW - ROC THE WORLD (formally Rolling Thunder Writers)- Given to MIN ONE by BILROC. This crew was originally writers from upper west side of Manhattan, but when MIN connected with our crew it changed identity and became one of the best style crews as well as one of the most feared and most up of all time.
TVS - The Vamp Squad- By far the most feared crew underground and a collective of CIA, RTW, ROC, TNS and other crews. Other crews I hit up are WOW, TNS, TD, TL, TOP, BYB, T6B, TDS, TFP, MTA, LA, and sometimes crews I am not officially down with like TAT, FC, TC5, 3YB, SALSA, INDS, NCB and others out of respect and homage to the art of getting up.
Who was your most successful partner(s)?
KEL 139, MIN ONE, DURO ONE, SHY 147, COS 207
Who were your rivals?
At one point TMT, TNT, MPC, NYCTA, TS5, RIS some others but these were the crews we had beef with.
List all the other names under which you have written?
RIG 340, PARE, FE3, DEO, NIGHTMARE 139
Do you have any interesting 149th Street bench memories?
The filming of Style Wars had to be a highlight because of all the top writers that came to represent. Being with SHY 147, KASE 2, HAZE, SKEME and DEZ and others was kinda' ill in retrospect.
Do you have any good raid stories?
When I was all of 12 years old in 1978 I went to the J yard to do a piece with KEL and DONDI, DURO and some other writers joined us as well, It was butt ass cold and we were doing a window down whole car CASH (DONDI), MARE, KEL. We got raided just as we were finishing and we had to jump from the top level of the yard to the bottom, I was small so it was a big ass jump, but I did it regardless. The piece is featured on your site which I am proud of.
You have remained active in the art form well after your transit career. eg.> public speaking, technology, museums/galleries, Style Wars (DVD). Give us a brief summary of your post transit career.
Wild style graffiti is what I invested a great deal of my personal creativity in, I sacrificed relationships with family and friends to be able to do this art for many years. Given that, it was not easy to let go a craft I so loved historically and socially. As I learned more about art history and cultural history I identified with the important contributions this art form has made and will make on society, so I chose not to allow myself to fade into the memories of the movement. It is important to share the lore of one's personal history in particular with one like graff because it is not well documented and preserved so that is why I like to do talks and still maintain a strong link to the past. But that sentiment doesn't keep me from evolving, my evolving as a Wild style sculptor and digital artist, before many even tried, has allowed others to think outside the box. I encourage writers to think in terms of application and communication this broadens the scope of possibility. There isn't a medium in which I haven't applied my art to, I think the next step for the art is commerce and it is growing in publishing and clothing.
Your post transit artwork has involved unorthodox mediums such as metal. What inspired this type of experimentation?
After the trains I thought I would have a transition into the art scene because all my peers were doing so, but I was disillusioned with that prospect because I wasn't bringing anything original to the table and the market wasn't supporting "real" graff. I couldn't relate to Wild style on canvas, I always felt it was more appropriate on the metal giants. One day I saw this sign in front of a restaurant in polished steel and I said "that's it, that's the future of graffiti, it's making it into sculpture!" I began to think about how letters bend and fold, and how script just curls and rolls into space. This really hit me, and I started making paper comps and studying the forms. That year I went to England to do a lecture at the Norwich School of Art and these ideas were still fresh in my mind. As I was explaining the whole idea of "signature," "calligraphy," Wild Style," and the whole evolution of graffiti (simple tags into wild style), I started to talk about how letters could be three dimensional and have movement; I found myself being very physical with my hands, I was articulating the whole thing by throwing my hands in the air like arrows, and that's something I saw with the break dancers, the boogie boys do. That was like physical graffiti, and at this moment it started to make a lot of sense, it all came together. When I came back to the States I made a little "K", and it was the perfect perception, it came out exactly like I wanted it to, it even had moveable parts. The science of the past, the style of graffiti, and what I understand about sculptural form worked out perfectly; they looked like they just bounced off the train. And that's what I wanted, that's what I've always seen. NOC 167 used to give his letters dimension just to freak you out, he used to make his letters fold and curl. And KASE 2 used to have layers. So I want to play with that, to give letters some kind of life of their own. So I did a whole series of letters that year in 1986. Graffiti is a transitional art form it translates to many styles and can be applied to all types of mediums, so I have always maintained an attitude of constant "burning" or evolution. So I approached my work with the attitude to burn any writer out. I may not be the best painter but I will always maintain a high level of mastery with Wild style lettering and its evolution.
Do you have closing words?
Graffiti is a lot of things to a lot of people and its roots are deep in the history of mankind, not just the subways. Wild style subway art though is the innovation of New York City writers who challenged social restrictions in their community to form a new creative society, they also shifted the creative paradigm of typography to the point of liberating the letter form as a high art. Society has always looked at us as social misfits because of what we have done to our city but this case can be argued because we are a reflection of our city both the chaos and beauty.
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