|From front: Shek, Supa, and Cien 63 paint graffiti art on large pieces of canvas at the recent Urban Art Fest. The San Antonio artists will be featured at Clogged Caps III, which will be held at an old meat-processing plant at 1700 S. Brazos. Festival sponsors will supply each participating artist with a free case of paint. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
It has been more than 30 years since a Greek teenager named Demitrius from Washington Heights became TAKI 183 and forged a nation of writers. On July 21, 1971, The New York Times printed the story of the Manhattan messenger who traveled throughout the five boroughs by subway, tagging TAKI 183 on stations and cars wherever he went. Although he was not the first graffiti artist - Cornbread was already writing in Philadelphia, and New York had Julio 204 and Frank 207 - TAKI 183 was the first to be recognized outside the subculture, and inspired young aerosol artists throughout New York City and beyond. Still, within a few years, graffiti became Public Enemy No. 1, and the symbol of the Big Apple's continuing urban decay.
Yet graffiti's stigma couldn't stop the host of stylistic innovations that laid the groundwork for generations to come. While Taki 183 was the first to tag train stations, Julio 204 was the first to combine his name with his street number. Babyface 86 rocked the first crown. Super Kool 223 created the masterpiece and was the first to "rack up." JAPAN was the first to paint an entire train, and Phase 2 defined many of the medium's enduring artistic styles. The evolution was later fueled by icons including Dondi, Futura 2000, Rammellzee, and Lady Pink, and continued even after the Mass Transit Authority declared victory over graffiti during the early '80s.
|Robin Bruce takes a brush to a large-scale painting at the Urban Arts Fest. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
In 2002, local MC MiC Dagger and Cincinnati transplant Steve Balser, a.k.a. DJ Scuba Gooding Sr., joined the production team to handle the Clogged Caps' Midwest-influenced music component. The core of Clogged Caps organizers eventually founded the Prhymemates, arguably the city's most active hip-hop-informed artistic collective. This year's third annual festival will feature artists from Texas, Illinois, Colorado, California, and Singapore, and will showcase some of underground hip-hop's finest MCs and DJs. With a new larger location at 1700 South Brazos, the crew hopes to top last year's estimated 400 attendees.
CLOGGED CAPS III
BLUEPRINT, ILLOGIC, DJ PRZM, ONE MAN ARMY, VG SKILLZ, DJ CHICKEN GEORGE, MIC DAGGER, CROS, KRIONIX
"Graffiti is always gonna revolve around traffic areas because that's where people are gonna see it: billboards, highway signs, and off the side of the highway," says Cien 63. "Basically, if a politician can put his sticker on something, that's probably where a graf writer will write, too. Politicians and graffiti artist tend to go hand in hand where they put their marks."
Part of the charm of Clogged Caps is the artistic euphoria in being surrounded by a slew of vibrant, original art pieces coming to life simultaneously. The experience is akin to standing in the eye of a graffiti storm. Artists who are often forced to work at frantic paces under the cover of night are freed from the constraints of time and criminal risk and are allowed to truly explore
|Aerosol artist Soup works a spray can on a canvas. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
In the early '90s, cultural critic Greg Tate mused on the definition of hip-hop: "Hip-hop is beyond good and evil, hip-hop is beyond life and death. Hip-hop was dead but hip-hop reanimated. Hip-hop does not live on YO! MTV Raps. Hip-hop currently resides beneath the noise where all the fly girlz and fly boyz use hip-hop as a form of telemetry, telepathy, and telekinesis." From Friday, July 18 to Sunday, July 20, locals can find that culture communicated through Clogged Caps.
"My goals and hope for it are community awareness and community involvement," says Balser. "For the simple fact that Clogged Caps is free, you can bring your family, and you can show them something new and different that they're not going to see at First Friday. We want people to be inspired." •
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