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

San Antonio's writing community celebrates the third annual Clogged Caps graffiti festival

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
Clogged Caps, San Antonio's contribution to graffiti lore, was originally conceived in November 2001. Supher, a San Antonio native who began painting in 1990, envisioned a Texas aerosol art festival that would showcase the state's most talented artists and complement similar festivals, including a B-boy Summit in Southern California and Scribble Jam in Cincinnati, Ohio. To help realize his vision, Supher turned to his fellow writers Duo, Shek, and Chicago transplant Cien 63, a.k.a. Da Mayor. Four months and $20 later, the crew transformed the corner of Frio and Ruiz into a writer's haven and unofficial SA landmark. "The fact that people from the neighborhood showed up was the best part," Cien 63 recalls. "We originally thought, 'They're not writers, but they're still here to check it all out,' which was dope. Our main concern from the get-go was to make sure that we always place the emphasis on having a free graffiti art show for anybody to be a part of."

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.

All day Saturday, July 19
& Sunday, July 20
1700 S. Brazos
For more info, go to

Friday, July 18
Half Time Sports Bar
8913 Wurzbach

For Supher, Clogged Caps also acknowledges some of the city's seminal writers and crews, including CA MOB from the West Side and VAMPS from the South Side, who each held down the art during the '80s. Other local writers that Supher cites as influences are SNIPER U.T.M., SLAM M.S.E., and Poise A.C.K., who were prevalent in the city throughout the '90s. Supher reflects on their influence to his progression as an artist: "To be a well-rounded writer, you need to paint a lot of walls legally and illegally. You need to paint freights. You need to put stickers up. You need to catch tags. Do anything against the grain and try to be original with everything you do. But you gotta let everybody know, freights are dangerous. That's probably the worst thing you can get caught for."

"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
styles, themes, and techniques. The result is a peaceful and communal environment where color reigns. For Supher, the effects are often liberating. "It's like getting lessons from Picasso, Mixmaster Mike, and Q-bert. It's awesome. It's beautiful. What 12 ounces of paint can do is unbelievable." Cien 63 adds, "It's like stepping into a world of creation. Everybody's out there and everybody's doing ill art. It's like the World Series, it's the NBA Finals, it's the Super Bowl of all the little graffiti shows that people have been doing, and all of a sudden everyone wants to come here."

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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