The Thirteenth Moon of 2009

December 31, 2009

New Years Eve, 2009, is a Blue Moon.

A blue moon is a full moon that is not timed to the regular monthly pattern. Most years have twelve full moons, which occur each month. In addition to each lunar cycle, every calendar year contains an excess of eleven and 1/4 calendar days. The extra days accumulate so that every two and a half years, there is an extra full moon. The extra moon is called a “blue moon.”

Another way to look at it would be the Thirteenth Moon. Less marketable, but much more accurate since there’s nothing azure about the evening sky. I can’t wait to see the Thirteenth Moon blaze through the night.


To say Boogie’s work is visceral would be putting it mildly. His stark, heart-stopping black-and-white photographs never fail to hit, front and center. A Serb who came to New York in 1998, Boogie has been shooting street photography since the mid 1990s during the war.  I have always felt a photographer to be as much a subject of their work as the image itself, and each one of his books reveals something new on the jagged edge of human existence.

As Boogie told me, ”The whole story about photographers doing what they do because they want to change the world, expose harsh reality of wars, starvation, violence—is aaaaaagh, crap. They (me too, I guess) do what they do because it gives them thrills. They become addicted to the adrenalin rush, to the world not everyone is allowed to see. So I guess we’re not gonna change the world, but rather show it as is, fucked up to the bone.”

Boogie’s world takes pleasure in the desolate landscape where children can play with guns with unadulterated pleasure or sleep in a large produce box in the park without fear of being bothered. In Istanbul, Boogie travels through Turkey’s capital city, a place he described to me as “The nicest in the world.” He talked about how positive the people were, how the city was infused with an energy that defied the more grim aspects of urban living.

© Boogie

In Boogie’s photos, there is light and motion for mood, pattern and texture for tenor, and tightly framed compositions for intensity. His remarkable juxtapositions and exacting edit combine to cinematic effect, creating a symphony of dramatic imagery and providing a surreal look at things that might be otherwise ordinary. Increasingly his new work reveals the strange qualities of the world as we experience it, not in its extremes, but in its buildings, its children, it’s urban animals, and its old people. Boogie’s Istanbul is as familiar as it is foreign, an extraordinary world not unlike a waking dream.

© Boogie

Hot Flash: Eric Johnson

December 28, 2009

From the HEADS series © Eric Johnson

The first time I saw the HEADS series in Eric Johnson’s studio, I stood mesmerized. A grid of ten, twenty, thirty, forty photos stood side by side, vying for my eye, captivating me as time went by. Heads of all kinds. Smoke gets in the eye. Boys, girls. Young, mostly. Moistly. Choice. Not models, but specimens all the same. Gorgeous, but not pretty. Dirty. Earthy. Work me.

Then we had dinner.

Santa Cutie

December 24, 2009

© Mark Peterson

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree,
For me.
been an awful good girl,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

If you are starving for fresh ideas and independent thought, check out Empty Belly Magazine. DJ Disco Wiz hit me up with a link, and it immediately transported me back to another era, a time before I joined the machine, when I believed in the fourth estate. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining. This is cause to celebrate. Check out my interview with Empty Belly for a little taste…

I am so impressed with quality of the the content and the design of the magazine. I haven’t yet seen anything that comes together as well in the digital realm. What was the inspiration to launch an online magazine and what have been the challenges to produce it ?

……Answer is simple: we decided we was done having someone else interpret meaning in our culture, we was done having somebody else tell us what was informative and what wasn’t……..

Most of these so-called culture magazine representatives were swallowed up in commercial obligations so deep they would bombard us with page after page of porno dvds and fake gold fronts and they were supposed to be representing our culture. Within the same pages telling us if you wanna “be real” buy these fake gold fronts from this guy and you will be able to look just like the guys we interview, they were false flags, out for self and still are, so much has been lost and taken away from us on their guard, that they needed to be shut down.

Patriot Act was passed not once but twice and knowing what that was going to do to us as a culture of speaking, writing and spitting, and yet they remained on the sidelines running more 2 for 5 biggest ass dvds, etc etc, we made them and they sold us out by saving their asses and remaining silent during the cultures shift to full corporate control………..

As far as challenges there are none we freestyle every issue, we have an obligation only to the street culture that finds itself in the midst of this informative hunger, so it just about gathering real pieces of mixed vegetables and feeding the streets healthy bowls of it every issue.

Cover by Esteven Oriol

The stories you tell come straight from the edge, providing an unvarnished look at the some of the most compelling stories of our time. What is your editorial mission, and how is it crystallized in the creation of each issue ?

The overall mission is to feed the planet, or at least be an outlet where real informative montage pieces can be found, half the writing is not ours; it’s sent to us from many places—some from well-known writers in the game who know what we do, some from individuals who have discovered something of interest, and of course once sources and facts are checked it becomes official.

Crystallization comes from the marriage of art and informative writing that is created from our blend of politiko guerrilla graphic layouts; it’s this design style that gives us our brand and direction. we understand the shift the culture is making from being children of the books to people of the screen, which puts us ahead of the curve, and it’s the reason we attract a certain group of culture figures and individuals.

I love how you are able to show the artistry of political conflicts, and the political conflicts of artists’ lives. What do you see as the roll art and journalism play; do you think they are in any way the same ?

As I was saying earlier; we were once people of the book. The culture has shifted to becoming people of the screen, not that books are dead, but we spend more time on screen then we do with a book. With that awareness, then, there is no doubt that art and journalism must become one. Using that knowledge we have entered that direction already and the more those in the business understand the requirement of the people of the screen, the more the culture will see the importance of positive and negative space on screens, so no longer is the writing more important than the image or the image more important than the writing.

Cover by PHASE2

Print media is sitting in quicksand, seemingly stuck and unable to come up with an effective way to save a sinking industry. I don’t believe “print is dead” but I do think that digital media is showing the limitations of paper as our major medium of communication. What advantages do working digitally provide you with; and is print, in any capacity, a medium of interest to you ?

Print is not dead but it has gotten the best of the most recognized print media to sell out it credibility all for the hope of one more suitcase full of dollars. Ads on front covers were consider the lowest level editorial can go, now its the standards, on April 9 a bankrupt LA Times ran a front page designed to look like a real article, in a desperate attempt to sell their last ad, making a mockery of their integrity.

I mentioned that cause the question was what are the advantages of working digital, the answer is we don’t have to respond to no one, emptybelly is foremost operated by a group of informative guerrilla artist who put issue after issue out regardless of advertisement revenue. EBM is self run.

It requires no commercial obligations to operate, only loyalty and dedication to a culture society that we ourselves belong to. We do have a print wing, we print quarterly the best of a several issues, and we also release a bi-monthly two issues in (HardCopy), basically like a mixtape CD with insert. So instead of music, you throw it in your laptop and you got yourself 2 issue to read and reference whenever you want, and as the loyalty grows so will other wings of our networks.

What’s up next for Empty Belly ?

We gonna keep that one under wraps. Since we launched 2 years ago several entities have begun branching of our brand with their own interpretations, so for us to keep ahead of the curve on these template following companies we will take the fifth on that one. But we will say that all our past issues are being made to be available online something that never was.

Empty Belly Magazine

Set Your Monkey Free

December 21, 2009

If I could do it all again, I would dedicate my life to the study of simians. I think they might teach me a thing or two about what it means to be human…

© Boza Ivanovic


December 14, 2009

I love a premier edition, so when the first copy of RESPECT landed on my desk a couple of weeks back, I had to give photo editor Sally Berman a shout to see what was going on—a photo journal dedicated to Hip Hop launching at a time when magazines were going out of business right and left. A magazine dedicated to the craft of photography, rather than the cult of celebrity. I’m saying, it’s long overdue…


Print Lives! Yes! I am so thrilled to see RESPECT launch in a time and climate when every naysayer is running around talking about the end of print as we know it. What was the impetus to launch the magazine, and what challenges did you face putting it out at a time where mags fold like dominos ?

Sally Berman: Thank you. Print does live and I feel extremely fortunate to have been given this new outlet during such a challenging time for magazines. RESPECT was created through the pure passion of 3 editors and a publisher who love, live and work in hip-hop and felt the strong desire to share these historical photographs in the beautiful manner that they deserved. Fortunately my main challenge was just trying to figure out how to show these photographs in a new way. I wanted the viewer to not only see the photographs, but to read about them from their creator. It’s been a true collaboration.

Andre 3000 Photography by Danny Clinch

And RESPECT is a photo journal to boot! Thank YOU. I just finished work on Gail Buckland’s Who Shot Rock & Roll, which was an exercise in recognizing the premier importance of photography as an essential form of transmission for musician and his/her message. As a photo editor, what connections have you observed between the creation and dissemination of the image, and its reception in the culture at large ?

I feel that currently there’s a bit of a gap, but I’m optimistic that new technology can help to bridge this…especially in mainstream media. I personally love holding, touching and owning print magazines, but understand that this is just not the case for everyone. The internet can offer more options for people accessing photography. Especially since it seems like images of urban culture and hip-hop have been under valued for so many years.

I’ve worked with a lot of older photographers, legends who remember a time when the photographer was a tradesman and not an artist in his own right. It seems to me that it’s only been in the past 50 years that the cult of the photographer has been born. As a journal dedicated to the work of photographers in Hip Hop, how does RESPECT expand our understanding of the photographer as both artist, collaborator, and icon ?

Having words from each of the contributors in RESPECT was pretty crucial to this magazine. We actually tried to do one feature without any commentary from the photographer, because of a scheduling conflict, but in the end felt it was imperative to have each photographer’s voice alongside their work. Looking back at it now, I can’t imagine us trying to do a photo journal and not having some perspective from the creators.

What’s next !?

RESPECT issue 2 which will be full of more outstanding photographs and words from some of hip-hop’s greatest visual documentarians.  Then our next challenge will be to create an appropriate web platform. I’d really love for RESPECT to become the outlet for photographers who work in hip-hop to share their thoughts and work more freely and for the readers to have a place to appreciate the photography of a breathing culture which is alive and well!

Sugar & SPICE

December 14, 2009


Earlier this year, INDIE 184 invited me to KWEENZ ARRIVE, a group show of female graff writers from around the globe showing at McCaig Welles. When I got there, the place was packed, so I found a lil spot in the back and chilled for a minute with Miss Indie herself, taking in the show for a story I was writing for Juztapoz.

Feeling very Medici, I decided my role for the night was patron of the arts, but there were so many hot options I didn’t know where to start, that is, until I overheard some girl say, “I am going to buy that one!” talking about a small painting done by Australian artist SPICE, which I had my eye on earlier. That settled the question of which. Now it was a question of how quickly I could snatch it. I hightailed it to INDIE without a second thought, ran up the sale, and floated out of the gallery. Who knew buying art was actually a sport?

Being a small world after all, I found SPICE on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and invited her to do an interview because I wanted to find out more about the woman behind the painting that now proudly adorns my wall.

How did you get involved in graff, and what were your early inspirations and influences as an artist ?

SPICE: I started out as a B-girl and was always the one in our crew who would draw so it was a natural progression for me to start representing that next element of Hip Hop.

I also have a brother who is 5 yrs older than me. We grew up as best friends and did everything together but me being only 11 yrs old at the time and under watch of a strict mum, I was not allowed out as much as he was—so he became a major influence. He would come home from late night battles and play me the tunes of the music they’d been breakin’ to. I was so in love with the music that I started to write the names of groups I liked. I think the first real sketch I did was a “Midnight Star” outline and still ‘til today I rate music as my biggest inspiration.

I love my brother so much for introducing me to that! He deserves a lot of props cos he was also a big influence on the early Sydney graff scene in general, as he was one of the 1st writers to discover a lot of the paints and yards. I also remember how inspired I was the day he and his friends brought home the 1st copy of Subway Art..courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW ;) That book was the inspiration to STYLE.


I love your paintings of women—the style and energy goes beyond graff and moves into a pop art style of painting. How do these portraits expand upon your work as a writer, and take your art to the next level ?

Thank you!

Its funny you say that, cos to me, the only real way I feel I’m takin’ what I do to the next level is by further progressing in my letter style.  I love painting characters and especially love incorporating a theme into my piece, but that feeds another part of my soul—a part that’s far from the depth of the letter.

I’m more inclined to paint portraits when I have a canvas in front of me as I feel a little restricted painting within a square, so I tend to fill it with a character portrait instead. A face captures a section of what more would be in store (the body) and in a style that is usually simplistic and focusing on the hair and eyes. Most people tend to think the women I paint are animated versions of me and my daughter, maybe because the eyes are always green and hair an odd color (like my daughters)
I feel painting characters can show a certain skill in can control and technique, but to master the manipulation of a letter is something else!

I love all forms of writing such as hieroglyphics, calligraphy, etc. and any type of art, and dabble in a few mediums but until recently, I used to get offended if someone referred to me as an artist because it’s not what I felt I was about. I wanted to be known as a writer. I was here for the love of Hip Hop and my love affair with the graffiti letter—the characters are just a bonus!


How did you connect with INDIE, and what has been the response to your inclusion in her global look at women in graff ?

A good friend of mine, ATOME, always had good things to say about her and felt that we would get along great if we connected.  So when paths crossed via the world wide web, we made contact. Then whilst on a tour through Europe, CANTWO suggested I come along to Den Haag where they were all part of the Artdrenaline Presents exhibit.  That’s where I met INDIE and COPE in person. To then later be included in her show was an honor and the feedback was all good :)



What’s the graff scene like in Australia, and does your being a woman come into play in this typically male-dominated scene ?

Australia has a very strong scene and I’m proud to say that a lot of my favorite writers represent here.

There has always been a varied amount of style coming from this country and style is what its all about! Given that we’ve had to be a lot more independent because we are so far from the rest of the world. I’m proud to know so many Australian writers who have gained world wide recognition.

Being female hasn’t really affected me as it would a new school female writer. I’ve been there from the start and have represented in many of the elements, so I paid my dues long ago.  I’ve always held my own independently and have never felt uncomfortable amongst the boys, nor haveIi ever tried to play on the fact that I’m female. I grew up being a tomboy so I guess its when I’m amongst alot of girls when I feel out of whack (laughs). In reality though, I feel fitting into any scene, comes down to being with like minded people—regardless of gender.

The only downfall I face, in being a female writer, or maybe just a strong woman is that most dudes tend to be intimidated. I used to laugh at the thought of that until so many of my male friends assured me its true.  I now notice how awkward some act when they try to approach me, and I’m sick of hearing that ones respect for me gets in the way of them ever asking me out on a date. You can only take that as a compliment for so long, then it just becomes a burden. Its really disappointing being amongst an army of cool men, who you share a common interest with, but no one is man enough to step to you.



December 12, 2009

A wry smile twists across my lips whenever I think of the death of independent bookstores in New York City. If it weren’t for Housing Works, I might find myself going a little batty, so the opening of Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene warms my heart. I am pleased that co-owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo found the time to do an interview, as I know how crazy retail is at this time of year!

Tell me about the inspiration to create Greenlight. What were some of the highlights along your journey to launch the store this Fall ?

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo: It has really been a journey!  My partner Rebecca and I have both worked in bookstores for many years, and each of us had separately dreamed of opening our own store someday.  In late 2007 I wrote a business plan, and ended up winning the grand prize in a contest sponsored by the Brooklyn Business Library in January 2008; that got a lot of great publicity for the project, but I still needed some capital, a space, and a kick start.

Rebecca and I partnered up over the summer that year, right around the time we also got connected with the Fort Greene Association; the FGA threw us an amazing “launch party” in September 2008 to get the neighborhood behind our efforts (here’s the story in the New York Times:  We were able to pull together the startup capital with a combination of our own finances, a small business loan, and “Community Lenders” who loaned us $1000 or more.

Then this wonderful space on the corner of Fulton and South Portland came to our attention through one of the FGA members; we signed a lease in June and spent the summer doing the buildout (it used to be an insurance company!) and ordering books.  We opened our doors for the first time on October 17, and the neighborhood has been warmly welcoming every day since!

You have opened the store in Fort Greene, Brooklyn—the borough that just happens to be the literary capital of the world. What is it like to be at the center of such an exciting place and time in cultural history ?

I’m so glad you feel that way too! I love Brooklyn with a passion second only to my love of books — I’ve lived here for about eight years, and it feels more like home than the town I grew up in.  I feel incredibly lucky to be able to be a part of the vibrant, diverse literary culture of the borough—big-name bestselling literary authors rubbing shoulders with self-published underground authors and bloggers and critics and publishers and children’s book writers, along with all of the artists and musicians and everything else that’s going on here.

And Fort Greene seems like the microcosm of that in some ways.  It’s such a diverse neighborhood in many ways — different ethnicities, lifestyles, worldviews, goals, styles—and that makes for an exciting and creative atmosphere.  It’s got a great literary and artistic history, from Walt Whitman to Richard Wright to Spike Lee and many many more, but it’s not stuck in the past.  It’s a place where people are aware of the value of their community, and that community is incomparable.  It is so the right fit for a new independent bookstore like ours, which is a very traditional venture that is using all the most contemporary tools to stay vibrant and connected.

I love all people who prove Print is Not Dead. What is it like to spend all of your time with books and the people who love and create them ?

It’s invigorating!  I hang out with a lot of people who talk about The Future of Books (or Publishing) a lot, but in the meantime we’re all living The Present of Books, and it’s a great place to be.  In addition to the local community of Fort Greene, I feel like we’re part of another community of booksellers and publishers and authors all over the country who share ideas about the business and the books.  If their smarts and passion are any indication, there’s a lot of life in books yet!

I always find myself buying books—in between business meetings, when I am traveling, or just because it’s Tuesday. To be able to be able to stock the store in an experience I envy greatly. What excites you most when looking at new titles ?

I have my own favorite genres: literary fantasy and the “New Weird”, quirky comic books, meaty plot-driven literature or contemporary poetry, so seeing those books in the catalog always excites me.  But it’s just as exciting and rewarding to look at a book and think, “That is just right for our customers,” or, “Someone is going to discover that and fall in love.”

When we come across a book like that, Rebecca and I tend to order big stacks—iit happened with POSING BEAUTY, a photography book on the history of images of African American beauty, and WHO SHOT ROCK AND ROLL, the book connected to the current exhibition at BAM.  That kind of stuff is exciting too.  (And we do love getting comp copies of not-yet-published books from publishers—one of the most exclusive perks of being a bookseller!)

What was your favorite book of 2009—new release or out of print, I mean to ask, what was your favorite encounter in print this year ?

Wow, good/tough question!  Though I might have a different answer on a different day, today I have to say a debut novel by a British writer, one that has a cult following amongst my fellow booksellers: THE GONE-AWAY WORLD by Nick Harkaway.  It’s a post-apocalyptic story with ninjas, pirates, monsters, mistaken identity, and true love — but it’s also a deeply humanistic, witty, funny, sad, old-fashioned yarn, and highly recommended even if you’re not a “genre” reader at all.  It’s really a rich, transformative literary experience—you look at the real world differently after spending time in Harkaway’s world.  The hardcover came out with a fuzzy neon pink-and-green jacket, which I think made it hard to sell; the paperback is out now in bright orange and silver.  If you see it, snap it up—it’s a serious trip!

(On another day, I’d mention: Zadie Smith’s essay collection CHANGING MY MIND, Jonathan Lethem’s CHRONIC CITY, reading P.G. Wodehouse on my iPhone, L.J. Davis reading from A MEANINGFUL LIFE which he wrote 40 years ago in this neighborhood, or any number of others!!)

Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM Monday through Saturday, 12 noon – 8 PM Sunday, or by phone at (718) 246-0200

Greenlight Bookstore is located on the corner of South Portland in the heart of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The co-proprietors, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (Book Nerd) and Rebecca Fitting, have a combined 25 years of experience in the book industry, an award-winning business plan, a great retail space, and a shared vision of bringing a fantastic independent bookstore to the neighborhood.

Hot Flash: The Bronx

December 8, 2009

One evening last summer, I hosted a book launch for Lisa Kahane in honor of Do Not Give Way to Evil, a collection of photographs of the South Bronx from 1979 through 1987. While Lisa signed and chatted, Disco Wiz was spinning classics, and legends like Joe Conzo, Marty Cooper, and John Ahearn were in the house—I found myself in my favorite spot, the gift store. As I perused the shelves, saying, Got it, Got it, What’s that, ohh Yes, it was then that I realized: Good lawd! I make books that sit perfectly in the collection of the Bronx Museum of Art.

There’s something about that borough. I can’t explain it really. I don’t go there often because it’s so faaaar from everything, even if, seriously, it’s just a hop away from my place uptown. Still, when I finally haul myself over, whether it’s to the ABC Carpet & Home Warehouse just off the Bruckner or to Beauty Town in Parkchester, there’s always this feeling: ahhh, home.

So you know, I gotta give it up when I hear that the Bronx Museum of Art has put on a panel talk this Friday night, December 11 from 6-8pm. Check it out !

Lisa Kahane (on the Bronx circa late 70s and 80s)
Joe Conzo (on early Hip Hop, growing up in the borough, and working for the fire department in the Bronx ‘cause I know y’all seen his sexy subway ads!)
Henry Chalfant (on documenting early graffiti and Hip Hop scene)
Master Rob (on early Hip Hop music)
Charlie Ahearn (on Hip Hop film work)
Ernest Paniccioli (on Hip Hop’s past, present, and futures)
Stefan Eins (on the legendary Fashion Moda, THE space where art and Hip Hop met uptown in the 1980s)

~*~ All Star Line Up ~*~



Rare Graffiti Drawings 1985–2005

By Sacha Jenkins and David Villorente


In an exclusive interview, Chris Pape aka FREEDOM discusses his work selected for publication in Piecebook Reloaded by Sacha Jenkins and David Villorente (Prestel, November 2009, $29.95).

© Chris Pape

When did you get into writing graff?
I started writing in 1974 as a neighborhood toy. I was very lucky in that NOGA (a graffiti workshop) had opened their doors just blocks from my house, it was there that I met a lot of the top writers of the day; STAN 153 in particular acted as a mentor to me, he was a great artist. I quit writing when I entered high school and came back to it in 1979 as FREEDOM. I did some pieces on the 1 line but was primarily known for the works in the “Freedom Tunnel.”

© Chris Pape

How do piecebooks function for you as a place to check out techniques and style, as well as to flex your own?
Nowadays my piece books have been supplanted by visual journals, these same journals invariably tell the story of the history of graffiti, and while some FREEDOM pieces do emerge they’re usually throwback styles.

© Chris Pape

Piecebooks seem to be very intimate items, circulated by invitation among only those in the know. In the book, Sacha likens this to early social networking, black books rather than Facebook. What are your thoughts?
In my first piece book I was just looking to get anybody famous, STAN helped me with that. I was 14 at the time and if you had STAN in your book it made others want to contribute; this was all in the friendly confines of NOGA. In the REAL graff world a writer would have to go to the bench and take some risks to get a nice piece done in their book. When I got a new book in 1979 I noticed that people were doing amazing things in black books, styles had evolved dramatically and the materials used were different, particularly the introduction of Designer markers.

While I didn’t take my graffiti career very seriously I loved the historical aspect of the piece book and looked for as many older writers as I could get. I tried to set a high standard in my book hoping that others would follow and amazingly they did, each page had one burner after another by the biggest names in graff. There was one piece by the elusive CHRIS 217 where he had drawn the smoker figure that STAY HIGH had created, ALI then did his version next to it, then FUTURA, then DONDI. EN 005 left a roach in the book and signed it. TRACY 168 spray painted the inside back cover with a flawless tag.

The book was an ongoing dialogue between the writers and lasted for 5 years. Now, older writers seem to just sign things.

How did you decide what to contribute to Piecebook Reloaded?
CHINO plucked something from one of my books that dealt with 9-11, I like the historical reference.

Looking back over your career, what surprises you the most about the state of graffiti today ?
The state of graffiti is amazing although the economy could end that. Artist’s like TWIST, ESPO, FUTURA, SEEN, JON, LEE, CRASH, DAZE and REAS have broken through in a big way in the fine art world and there’s no doubting their credentials. They were all legitimate graff people. TATS CRU
has taken on the role of Madison Avenue by doing great commercial work that for some reason drives art school toys to hate them – something that drives me nuts. That’s the good news. I suppose the down side is that there isn’t a single new bomber to come out and take on transit – really take on transit, not just paint a train and put it on youtube. But it will happen and when it does we’ll remember how and why we became enchanted with this movement in the first place.

© Chris Pape

Anyone you wanna shout out ?
As for shout out’s how about one collective one to all of the NY writers of the 70’s / 80’s subway movement. You guys paved the way. And to my daughter Cora, the light of my life.

Chris Pape at Wikipedia



About the Book:

Once upon a time, long before technology created an online global community, graffiti was a highly localized art form. Be it on the subway or in the street, graffiti was available only to those who crossed its path. Though photographs were shot and circulated amongst those in the know, and sometimes even made it out into the world through early graff books and magazines, the truly exclusive were given to circulating the piecebook, an iconic black sketchbook with heavy stock paper, perfect for showcasing the most personal forms of marker-based artwork.

Like its critically celebrated predecessor, Piecebook Reloaded: Rare Graffiti Drawings 1985–2005 by Sacha Jenkins and David Villorente (Prestel, November 2009, $29.95) recreates look and feel of those elusive sketchbooks. Featuring the work of more than 50 graffiti legends, including REAS, CES, DOC, TACK, PURE, PART, COPE 2, REVOLT and STEM, Piecebook Reloaded delivers the best of the best in its most confidential expression. “There’s nothing more honest than a drawing not intended for the world to see,” Sacha Jenkins astutely observes. “The images culled for this tome have been through fire, having traveled borough to borough, bounding hand to hand, surviving the good and the bad that three-dimensional New York life can offer. Here we are, mustard stains and all.”

Piecebook Reloaded features work created from 1985–2005, during a period when graffiti moved from the subways to the streets, changing the game for many who found that without the thrill of the trains, the magic of bombing was gone. These two decades also marked a transition in the status of graffiti as an art form as determined by the gallery world. What was once the darling of the avant-garde was deemed “over,” and it would take some time before the economics of the art scene got behind graffiti culture again. Yet, at the same time, we witness the rise of corporate marketing departments blatantly co-opting graff tactics for its innovative and effective approach to mass communication.

Yet despite these changes to the literal and business landscapes, graff writers continued executing their exceptional talents in the private confines of the piecebook. Sharing work that was meant to impress their contemporaries while expressing their individual vision Piecebook Reloaded features never-before-published art by GHOST, CYCLE, WANE, CRASH, SEEN, DAZE, PINK, MITH, SANE, DONDI, ZEPHYR, SP.ONE, SHARP, JON ONE, MARE, CEY, and others. And with an eye toward the authentic and the inclusive, Piecebook Reloaded is printed on paper stock identical to that of actual sketchbooks, with plenty of blank pages for you to add your own masterpiece to the mix.

About the Authors:

Sacha Jenkins is a former graffiti writer turned journalist. A one-time music editor at Vibe and senior writer for Spin, he is the co-founder of the seminal hip hop magazine ego trip as well as the co-author of New York Times bestseller The Way I Am, an authorized biography of musical icon Eminem.

David Villorente was the editor of Source magazine’s graffiti pages for 11 years, writing under his tag, “Chino.” Villorente was a prolific writer of another sort, getting up (inside) the trains on the BMT and IND lines from 1984–1987, as well as a ton of street bombing after that time both locally and abroad. He is the co-author of Mascots & Mugs: The Characters and Cartoons of Subway Graffiti. Check out his blog on

“Hip-hop has always kept the bare facts of its creative  process hidden, but Brian Coleman’s Check  the Technique saves the genre by steering rap towards the classic respect it deserves, alongside jazz, blues and rock. This book is a fantastic guide for all we do.” —Chuck D

Brian Coleman is the grooviest dude I know.

Several years back, I received a package in the mail; it was a small self-published paperback called Rakim Told Me, and it was a collection of interviews with Hip Hop legends to provide junkies like myself with liner notes to classic albums like Paid in Full. Back then, I didn’t get too many goodies in the mail, and I remember looking at the book thinking, who is so cool as to send me something this awesome without my knowing ? Then I flipped open the book and noticed it was signed with a note from the author, a one Brian Coleman, who wrote something to the effect that he liked what I did, and thought I might enjoy checking out his book. how right he was.

I devoured Rakim Told Me in one sitting, and thirsted for more. The wait was not long. A couple of years later, the book was expanded and republished as Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkies, the ultimate nostalgia trip. I was completely blown away by the access Brian secured, and the stories shared here are unlike anything I have read before or since. And now the word is Check the Technique is dropping in Japan! Hot damn, go on Brian!

“I definitely appreciate [Check the Technique]. It’s good to see somebody going in-depth in hip-hop, not just surface sh*t. I really do feel that this book is good for the history of hip-hop.” —Ice Cube

Hot Flash: Arlene Gottfried

December 3, 2009

If I could sing, the praises of Arlene Gottfried would pour from my lips. Her incredible collection of photographs of New York City from the 1970s is like nothing I have ever seen.

Born in Brooklyn, Arlene graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and worked as a photographer at an ad agency before freelancing for top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Life, and The Independent in London. Gottfried has exhibited at the Leica Gallery in New York and in Tokyo, and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among others. Her photographs can be found in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Berenice Abbott International Competition of Women’s Documentary Photography.

Gottfried is the author of one of my all-time favorite monographs, Sometimes Overwhelming, I just had to ask honey a couple of questions…

What was it like back in the days, once upon a time before AIDS ?

Arlene Gottfried: G.G. Barnum Room was a tranvestite club in Times Square which was very unusual with a trapeze and lots of ladies doing all sorts of things, lots of Puerto Rican ones.  I had lots of good times there.

You went out into this scene with a camera—how did that go over ? Were other people photographing the scene as well ? Did you ever exhibit these photos ?

People didn’t mind the camera they wanted to be noticed and I never really did the kind of photographs where people were unaware of the presence of me with the camera. They were others photographers around in some of the clubs but usually never a mob scene, or phones with cameras, video blackberrys and all the electronic gadgets of today. The photographs where hardly ever seen if at all. I developed the film, printed the ones I liked and put one in a portfolio box and if I made others just stored the prints in boxes.

Looking back at the City then, and the way things are today, what is the most distinctive change you have seen ?

The most distinctive change is the disappearance of individuality.  The small family owned shops with personality.  So much diversity of colorful people.  Some of the texture of things that were just not that slick.

We recently visited Eric Johnson’s midtown Manhattan studio for a chat about the incredible portrait project he has been undertaking over the past few years, and snap a few shots of the studio for our story, which will be posted in the coming days. But first, a little history…

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Eric Johnson’s early interest in drawing & painting led to his acceptance to Newark’s Arts High School.  Here he began photographing his many friends, and he hasn’t stopped shooting since. His portrait work has appeared in many magazines such as Vogue, W, Dazed & Confused, Rolling Stone, and Flaunt among many others. His impressive list of iconic album covers include most of Maxwell’s, Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation, De La Soul’s Stakes Is High, and many others.

Eric’s work has been the subject of numerous group shows, as well as his first solo exhibition in New York City’s Buia Gallery. He has also published his first of many planned books with Common published by MTV’s Spectrum Press, with more work included in American Photography XIII  (Fadner, Amilus Inc.), Desire (Steidl Publishing), and Hip Hop Immortals Vol. I (Immortal Brands Publishing). Eric’s work spans a variety of mediums: he has directed music videos, as well as a couple of short spots for MTV2’s design. hatever the medium, Eric Johnson maintains his true original style and relevancy at the same time.

“We’re getting a puppy for Christmas,” Wills Price announced to his parents. “Look,” he said as he held up a new book called Golden Retrievers: The Complete Owners Manual, pointing to the puppy on the cover. “That’s probably her.”

“She’s great,” said his dad, Michael. “We’re going to have so much fun!”

“I know,” Wills said with, what his mother, Monica Holloway, described as “the self-assured ease of a White House press secretary.” Seeing his eyes flicker with confidence, Monica knew that getting a puppy was the right thing to do for her son, who had been diagnosed just one year earlier with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The next morning, Monica was surfing the Internet in search of local golden retriever breeders. As she recalled, “On almost every website I read a somber warning. NEVER BUY A DOG FROM A PET STORE.” She discovered article after article detailing the horrors of puppy mills and how dogs were heinously mistreated, sick, and malnourished. “You’re setting your family up for heartbreak,” one article cautioned.

But when no puppies could be secured after six weeks of searching for breeders throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere, Monica made her decision. “What other alternative did I have? At least,” she reasoned, ”I’d go to a fancy store in Bel Air. Surely the Pet Chalet wouldn’t have the audacity to sell puppy-mill puppies to millionaires.”

A blond, brown-eyed golden retriever, who Wills had named Cowboy Carol Lawrence, arrived at a tender eight weeks of age, with a small, throat cough and a blazing red rash that warned of what was to come.

“Cowboy seemed to be on the thin side with the saddest brown eyes,” Monica remembered. “I could’ve called the whole thing off right then, gotten my deposit back, and walked away. I could have waited until after Christmas for a healthier pup from a local breeder, but what would have happened to this little girl? I’d fallen in love with her already. I wouldn’t give up on her because of a pesky cough and a rash. Wills was at home waiting—had his heart set on her. I held her up and looked into her eyes. Yep, there was no way I would ever walk away from this girl.”

For Wills, who was only three years old when he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cowboy was more than a pet; she was the bridge between himself and the rest of the world. Cowboy’s very presence in his life empowered Wills to take risks, to engage and socialize, to establish meaningful and intimate connections with the world around him.

Detailing their devotion to each other, Monica Holloway has written the pitch-perfect memoir Cowboy & Wills (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $24), which is truly a love story like no other. Like peanut butter and jelly, Cowboy and Wills are the perfect pair. Where Wills was cautious, fastidious, and tender hearted, Cowboy was rambunctious, affectionate, and impulsive. Soon, the boy who could barely say hello to his kindergarten classmates was going on play dates, learning to swim, and sleeping in his own bed. Through it all, Cowboy was there, dragging him toward other children and giving him the confidence to face his fears.

But love was not enough to save the beautiful Cowboy from her fate, and the cruel reality of puppy mills quickly caught up to them. When Cowboy was diagnosed with canine lupus, Wills and his family realized that now they must be there for her, just as she was for them.

Cowboy & Wills reveals the inexplicable power of love, loss, and salvation. Weaving a mesmerizing tale of hope and despair, anxiety and assurance, trust and doubt, Monica Holloway’s matchless talent for crafting stories of infinite joy and gut-wrenching pain makes her one of the foremost memoirists of our age.

As the critically acclaimed author of Driving With Dead People, perhaps the most the spellbinding, blindsiding, and horrifying memoirs I have ever read, Monica Holloway has known more than her fair share of pain but what impresses me most is her undaunted courage and honesty. I was immediately attracted to Monica’s precise turn of phrase, her unfettered silliness, and her OCD tendencies, but all I can remember from the book was my visceral desire to race through it, to try to escape the brutality of its pages by going faster and faster. I didn’t want to put it down but there were so many times that the tension got the best of me and my response, to out run my fear, was exactly how I deal with it in my own life.

But I only realized this when I spoke with Monica some time later. It had dawned on me that this was the first time I could recollect being unable to put a book down, yet unable to really take in what she was telling me. That it is true, that it happened, that she is still here—alive and kicking—is more than a victory, it is a testament to the power of the human spirit, and of Monica’s quiet resilience and personal strength.

And so when I read Cowboy & Wills, I marvel at the life Monica has lived. Her heart is so big that I smile to myself just thinking about it. As I have said, and will say again, I could only wish every client, every author, every mother, every person could be as beautiful as she—the one, the only, the amazing Monica Holloway.



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