Seen: The Godfather of Graffiti
From the streets to the studio; a global style influencer
Seen, one of the most well known graffiti artists in the world, got his start at the early age of 11. From then until around the time of the graffiti crackdown in New York during the late 1980′s, his pieces could be seen all over the city. Many of the most iconic images of graffiti from the time, pieces that spanned entire subway cars, were his creations.
He fucking tagged the Hollywood sign in L.A.
During the 1980′s, Seen began producing works on canvas, shown by galleries around the world. The shows featuring his work included the world of other artists such as Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Towards the end of the 1980′s, around the time the MTA began to actively crackdown on graffiti on trains, Seen opened one of the most successful tattoo studios in New York. He continues to create pieces to this day which are featured in galleries around the world.
I was around 11 years old when I first discovered graffiti; seeing it as an art form and not simply vandalism. At the time, my Mother worked in the South Bronx and I would occasionally spend days at her office during the summer. We would take the railroad from Long Island to Manhattan and then take the 2 train to the Prospect Avenue stop in the Bronx. The entire trip, around 2 hours, afforded me with plenty of time to look out of train windows.
While there is a lot to view during the trip, it’s mostly cold, grey surfaces; industrial buildings and transit hubs littered with sloppy, mono-tonal graffiti – pointless scribbles and other nonsense. As you got closer to the city, though, the landscape begins to change – colors and imaginative forms begin to appear; exploding from the lifeless surfaces they are painted on.
This is when my obsession with the art form began. I did whatever I could to scrounge enough money to afford film to capture these amazing pieces of art on film whenever I possibly could, found books filled with the history of graffiti and it’s major names, and began to sketch pieces of my own. These books are where I learned about Seen and his exploits. Countless sketchbooks were filled with sketches of my own, often emulating his styles, during my early teen years.
The photos below are from a trip I took to Brooklyn during the summer of 1995:
My energy turned to technology within a few years, by my love for graffiti never died. The work of Seen, and countless other street artists, have had a profound impact on how I view the world and the surfaces it’s comprised of. Now that I’ve found a new canvas to work with, a small series of shirts inspired by graffiti’s notable artists is definitely something I plan to work on in the future.