A friend of mine back in high school lived in Queens, somewhere off of Northern Blvd., I remember when I would head out there, I’d see your (SP) throw-ups and always said to myself, “now, that’s class”…give us a little background and the beginnings of Sp.One.
I started writing Sp.One in 1981 and never really stopped. I had a few names before that and settled on Spankey. But after a few months I out grew that and shortened it to Spy. Every neighborhood had someone who wrote Spy so I decided that was too generic and I ended up with Sp1. When I started writing back then a lot of people in Queens had two letter names, like Cd3, Sf7 and Ku2, so it just fit. I was one of the only writers in my crew that could piece but most of the time it was all about bombing. So I spent most of my time getting up rather than doing nice pieces.
(Sp.One/KYO,(Keylo), Long Island Expressway, Queens, NY 1988)
Eventually your style would develop into a more font/type concentrated expression – what was the spark for that transition?
Graffiti made me look at letters and think about them in a totally different way. Color, composition, movement, layering and repetition all play huge parts to developing letters and the creative possibilities are endless. Although I am a purist when it comes to graff I also want to evolve and take those ideas further primarily working with paper collage.
(Breaking Tradition, 2010 – Hand cut paper collage – 17.75 x 22.75 inches)
Much like hip hop of the time graff went through a somewhat golden era in the 90’s what do you miss most about those days?
The 90’s was fun but for me the golden era was the 80’s. I graduated college in ‘91 and writing was still out there for me. It is always a continuation and a progression of what you have accomplished before. Like I mentioned I was primarily a bomber in the 80’s so the 90’s was time for me to refine my style and go all out with piecing.
(Sp.One, Queens, NY, 1996)
Nowadays, many of the villains of that era are becoming more and more “validated” then they were vilified – in that sense how do you feel it helps or hurts those artists and how does it hurt the graffiti culture?
For me graffiti has helped in the sense that from the start – without even knowing it- I spent a lot of time building a brand and created an identifiable name. In the art world this has been an asset especially in the beginning when I was trying to get my name and my collage work out there. People had already heard of me so that was a big help.
Graffiti is the foundation and I am very much into expanding on it and not trying to be only one-dimensional. I know a lot of former graff writers will say I was young and stupid I don’t do that any more. I think that one should not deny or make excuses for the past but rather embrace your experience and build off of it. To me it is the spark that set you off and makes life exciting so even though I don’t get down like I used to I still get down.
(Damage Control, 2010 – Hand cut paper collage – 14.25 x 21 inches)
What do you currently have in the works?
Quite a bit at the moment, I have the next two years pretty much booked with shows coming up in Oregon, Maine, Boston, Ireland and LA to name a few. Also working on a variety of commercial projects with Simple Shoes, Atlas Skateboards, Bodega and Prestel. I’m also in the process of creating some limited edition prints and working on a couple of different book projects. My whole shit this year is to be mad ambitious.
(The New Hustle, 2008 – Hand cut paper collage – 20 x 15 inches)
Finally, as this is a music driven magazine/site – what do you currently have on rotation in the lab?
I don’t own an IPod, shit I still have a tape deck in my car. I do collect vinyl and listen to records all the time. Johnny Guitar Watson, DJ Shadow, Celtic Frost, Whodini, The Isley Brothers, Matt Bianco, Rush, The B-52’s, are just some of the music I have listened too in the last 24 hours…