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Friday, July 31, 2009

Columbo, Monk and CSI

Very often, one hears an accusation of someone or something being boring. However, it is often the one making the claim who is just not digging deep enough or bringing anything to the table.
In the last three and a half years of writing and doing the photography for this website, I have learned to examine things more closely by reading and researching. In doing so, I have been most often surprised by what lies beneath the book's cover.

Part of this process has been taking greater interest in things that have been part of the New York City landscape, seemingly forever like a virtual white noise. One of these things is urban art or graffiti. Artists like Keith Haring started their careers using building surfaces as their canvas. Remnants of these works can be seen from time to time, like the graffiti of two of the most prolific in the city's history: Cost and Revs (whose identity still goes unknown).

I was startled recently when I came across this mural in a SoHo parking lot. I had never seen it in its entirety - it is typically occluded by any number of vehicles. On this walk, however, it was very early in the morning before opening, and so I was rewarded with a unique, unobstructed view of the entire mural. Seeing this reminded me of how the murals, I Am the Best Artist by René, were everywhere in the 1980s & 90s in SoHo.

Typical of graffiti artists, the facts about René are shrouded in mystery. The New York Times ran one article about René's war over wall space with French artist Le Pointre. René refers to himself on his website as René IATBA or I.A.T.B.A. (an acronym for I Am The Best Artist.) He appears to have grown up in Venezuela, according to his website, which itself is layered in abstruse writing and design elements. It is as enigmatic as the man.
If you want to learn the details of a street artist, be prepared to become an amateur forensic scientist. You will enjoy the work, if like many, you are a fan of Columbo, Monk, or CSI :)


Anonymous said...

Those artists might be thirsty for famousness and they became rebels :)

Chuck Pefley said...

So, so true. Millions of us walk past treasure every day. Great story. Keep digging -:)

Michelle Johnson said...

I've always been drawn to graffiti on walls and such. I even think some of the artwork is of great detail.

Anonymous said...

I not only modeled for Rene for years but I also have been his friend for even longer. This artist never needed to 'act' the rebel. He truly was/is and was always ahead of his time.|
He was and is, a fascinating man.