Saturday, July 19, 2008

If you didn't already know..

or if you forgot how fucking raw REVS is heres a saturday evening tribute to one of the worlds best graffiti writers! Also one of the coolest american artist of our time, move over Warhol, Haring, Basquiat, REVS wrote his autobiography in the nyc subway tunnels, that in itself is one of the coolest pieces of american folk art of our time. Hopefully it will never be published, and in order to see it or read pages from it you need to call your local Indiana Jones and venture to the lonely, dark, dangerous, tunnels to read it, the same place were it was written.

REVS section starts at 6:45 seconds in worth the wait..

"Down in the tunnels you quickly learn that there are reoccuring names, and these are the names of people who have, years earlier, combed through these very tunnels we explore today. Smith estimates that REVS covered up to 80% of the subway tunnels.

With recent discoveries, we were given with more than enough clues as to where REVS' obscure "first page" is (which we had all seen in ESPO's book.) So tonight, we decided to roam the tunnels for it, with an unneccessarily large amount of people who were in it for the adventure. A few of us wanted to see the fabled first page for ourselves. What we discovered was far beyond our wildest imaginations. An entire emergency exit, transformed into what my fellow explorer, Hanvey described as a "shrine of sorts." The walls were wallpapered with old wheatpastes that influenced today's whole "street art" phenomenon. There were drawings that the guy would use to draw on canvas and bolt and cement onto doorways.

I remember the days when a subway train illegally painted by Lee Quinones would roll into a station and the people on the platform would spontaneously applaud. I remember artists like Lee, Zephyr, Futura 2000, Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, SAMO |C~ (aka Jean-Michel Basquiat), and Keith Haring putting art out on the street for free. But graffiti isn't what it used to be. Style is all but gone, and thi outlaw practice, once a field of ambition, daring, rebellion, and improvisation has largely reverted to a form of unconscious egoism and conformist vandalism. There are still a few sparks of unauthorized public art out there, though.
I think I might have noticed Cost and Revs at the beginning of their careers--I remember seeing some of those conventioneer stickers that say "Hello My Name Is around town with their tags marketed on. But I didn't really latch on to them. really noticed them a year or so ago when I started seeing their 8 1/2-by-11-inch wheatpaste posters all over New York. And I mean all over. Most visible was their use of the backs of "walk/don't walk" signs--it seemed like they'd hit just about every intersection in Manhattan. Each poster had the name COST or the name REVS and a qualifying word or slogan: Specimen REVS. COST was here. Machine REVS. COST is dead. Turkish REVS. COST fucked Madonna. That one made me laugh out loud when I first saw it.

COST and REVS also do larger works, which they call "rollers," because they mak them with paint rollers on walls. One of them is visible in a Donna Karan DKNY ad that shows a New York landscape; COST and REVS are a part of the landscape. They're getting more elaborate these days. They've hit SoHo walls with guerilla canvases. They're doing authorized murals. But they're still taking their message to the street with determination, sincerity, wit, and guts.

Cost and Revs are a couple of New York kids. White Kids. New York etched in their accents. Being in their mid 20s, they're getting a little old to be kids, but they're kids as long as they keep doing what they're doing. What they're doing is getting up everywhere, making their mark, making a name for themselves in the landscape. It's unauthorized nonprofit public art. It's not made for museums or foundations or galleries. It's not made for speculative investors or dealers or critics or collectors. It's made for an audience of their peers.

One day I noticed a poster with a phone number on it: COST (212) 592-4133. I called the number and couldn't believe what I heard--the speaker wasn't Cost or Revs, it was an old lady. You could tell from her voice that she's cashing a social security check. If you can believe Cost and Revs, she's in her 90s, and she goes by the tag Graff's Grandmother. As in Graffiti. She gave an eloquent oration on how her boys Cost and Revs were holding up the standards of graffiti in an age of decline. A few months later I caught up with her again. She explained that she had been in the joint, where she was "runnin' shit," and she recounted, in her ancient tremolo, how she had been in the same prison as Mike Tyson and how she had explained to the champion that he needed some spiritual values in his life and how that had led to his conversion to Islam.

Graff's Grandma hasn't been on the hot line in recent months, Cost and Revs hav been issuing their own funky but grandiose manifestos, but I just checked in with the line now and there she was: I am the only Grandma of Graff. I am the wisdom, the engine, the teacher behind the Cost and Revs machine. I built these boys and I built them to last. As you can hear I am no joker and neither are they. They are merely henchmen to me and purely servants to New York City. They are art outsiders looking in on life and watching and learning from other people's stupidity. They are the sugar in your coffee, the sauce in your spaghetti, the salt in your stew. They are everything you've ever wanted but haven't realized yet, so take it from me, kiddies, the Grandma of Graff says Cost and Revs are the move. Or as Cost and Revs say, "Move over." Either one. Both are true.

I talked to Cost and Revs recently. Cost talks more, but when Revs gets revved up he is declarative and passionate about what he does.

COST: We met in '85, then went our separate ways. About a year and a half ago w were doing things that were similar so we started hanging out again and combine the mission. I think we brought wheat-pasting to a different level.

I was intrigued by graffiti since I was eight or nine years old. I'd read the walls and I'd wonder how it got there and want to do it. When I started to get some time to myself I found myself buying markers and trying to write on the walls, on dumpsters, on doorways with my friends. It built from there. I never stopped.

I respected a lot of graffiti writers. When I was young I was really impressed by Zephyr.

REVS: I've always liked Lee's stuff. He put his heart and soul on the wall, and not a lot of guys do that. I really respect that a lot.

1 comment:

Cost-Rok said...

I see you all over Philly B. I'm in contact with old heads out here like cost, sloe, credit, create, plae, etc. I'm origionally from the New York area so I'm trying to get to see the graff side of Philly a little deeper. Hit me up sometime.