Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Rooftop Legends event began in 2007 and is the
brainchild of the schools Dean, and graffiti artist,
Jesse Pais. Realizing the need to preserve graffiti art
and provide a space to paint, the event continues to
bring together some of the most prolific artists from
the cultures formative years and today. The reasons
Jesse had for bringing this to the roof of the New
Design High School are bigger than a love for the art,
having worked with kids since he was 17-18 years old
his passion to make these students not just want to go
to school, but be proud of it, is the main factor.
He works from a place where he wants the students to
be saying, "Your school might be corny, but mine's not
for this reason." Most of the artists I've chatted to on the
roof all echoed the same sentiment, they wish they'd gone
to a school like this, Jesse included. Fact is, much of the
visual culture we see every single day has been informed
or influenced by the graffiti movement in one way or another,
given that a vast majority of the artists who grew up writing
and painting are now designers or creative directors.
Regardless of what they do now they have all carried their
passion for this art-form and where they've come from and
it's shaped them into who they are today as adults. This is
absolutely not to say that graffiti art should hold value in
the community as a catalyst for a job or money because it's
the rawness and the drive to do it for the love that makes it
what it is. However, it definitely says something about holding
dear where you've come from and what really matters to you
and channelling it into making you a stronger individual.
Most of these artists have come from similar backgrounds to
the kids at New Design, it's because of this the kids can relate
to them and vice versa. The students have respect for Pais not
because they're supposed to, but because they recognize the
history he has come from.
Having been involved in the seminal years of graffiti it's massively
important to Jesse play a role in preserving it. With Rooftop
Legends he's trying to show you the very best of a culture that he
feels shouldn't die and remove some of the stigma attached to it.
"The word graffiti scares a certain population of people," the aim
he says is "to have someone who doesn't think anything of graffiti,
or has a bad opinion, and change that." The general association
when the broader community outside of the culture think of
graffiti they think of vandalism. There is no doubt this is part of
what graffiti is and where it has come but graffiti ART is what is
happening on the roof of the school and it's as legitimate an art-
form as anything you'd see housed within the four walls of a gallery,
Jesse feels "It's as pure an art-form as there can be, generated by
inner-city kids and that's something that shouldn't be shunned."
It's a known fact that society in general loves to fixate on the negative,
and stereotypes are a hard thing to shake but Rooftop Legends
definitely can open peoples eyes in a positive way. The aim is for
education and appreciation, although this was initially just aimed
at the kids it's pretty obvious that the show has the ability to school
the broader community. This is a culture so deeply rooted in this
city that has spread across the globe and is arguably the biggest
artistic movement we've ever seen.
Jesse is pretty quick to acknowledge the Rooftop Legends show
would not be possible without the artists who have donated their
time, energy and supplies over the past 4 years. Without this love
of the craft the culture would not be what it is, seeing all the old
school and new school artists in the lead up to the show sharing
stories, paint, advice and the energy that is being generated you
can see why he saw this as something that could benefit the students
of New Design. There's no doubt he will always play a part in graffiti
and its preservation but he's quick to add he now only paints on the roof.
Words and portrait: S.LESTER
'EV-EVISM' piece from 2007 RTL Show, by Jesse Pais (EV)
Sunday, April 25, 2010
With only two weeks to go till the 2010 Rooftop Legends
event the energy on the roof is something else. A bunch
of artists were up this weekend painting in the sun, and it
was pretty amazing seeing the old-school and new school
sharing paint, giving each other advice and just feeding of
the vibe which is inevitable when you get this many creative
people in the one spot.
The roof is shaping up and we'll be getting the fliers for the
show out this week. If you don't live in NYC, or just don't
happen to pick one up check back in here for all the info
on the 2010 Rooftop Legends event.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
With three weeks till Rooftop Legends 2010 a bunch
of artists were up painting today. WOLF AOK, WANE COD,
TEAM GO CLUB, MONE RIS, & SIGNAL COD as well as
New Design High's art teacher, Ben Rojas.
With more big names to hit the roof over the next few weeks
keep checking in for updates.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Back in our first week of painting CYCLE TC5 was on the
roof. We took the chance to ask him a couple of questions
about his graff and this years piece for the Rooftop Legends show.
RTL: How did you get into graffiti, and how many years have
you been writing for?
CYCLE: I started seriously writing in 1989. I got into it from just
seeing it around in my environment, places I would hang out at
or go skateboarding at or along the train lines. This was the days
before the internet, you had to figure it out for yourself. I was always
into art since I was a little kid and graffiti looked like it was more fun
than High School art class.
RTL: Where are you from and how did you wind up in NYC?
CYCLE: I am from Connecticut originally. I grew up about an hour
or so from the city. The Metro North commuter trains came right to
where I lived so I was always taking the train down into the city since
I was a kid. Going to Mets games, going to record shops, skateboarding,
hanging out, etc. I have lived in Washington DC and San Francisco
as well for school but some how I always wind up back in NYC.
I guess so much of what I grew up with is based around this city it just
feels right being here.
RTL: You seem to be involved in a bunch of other creative areas -
was this all a direct progression for you?
CYCLE: I am not sure if "direct progression" is the right term,
it was more like a drunken stumble.
RTL: What can you tell us about this years piece for the Rooftop
CYCLE: It makes a sound like this....."Arrrghhhhhh"
RTL: Anything else you'd like to add - new projects, news etc?
CYCLE: New projects?....uh, I don't know....I guess falling down,
getting up, trying again kinda stuff.... making it up as I go along,
Something always seems to pop up. Just keep painting and looking
for a nice warm spot in the sunshine to lay down and daydream.
We've had ENUE COD up on the roof over the past
few weeks. We thought we'd ask him a few questions
and he was kind enough to answer 'em...
RTL: You started writing in the early nineties,
how have you seen things change in the graff / art
world since then?
forms of art are definitely more of a marketable
commodity. It's not just graffiti, but most things
people do in general, from making music to dancing
around in your underwear in your bedroom. I think
our society kind of found a way to turn every facet of
life pretty much into some sort of revenue-generating
entity with the influence of the internet and the whole
"connected" generation. Everything you do can have a
potential audience now that the internet exists. That's
both cool, and sorta not cool.
When I became interested in doing graffiti, the aspiration
was basically...just to do graffiti. Go out, bug out and write
on stuff. And you kind of learned from what you saw first
hand. The pool of influence was more localized, and it was
more of a personal experience because to link up with
someone meant that you actually had to run into them,
get to know them enough to establish trust and so-forth.
If that person lived 3 towns away it was kind of a big deal.
Now it's common to be like... "Yo...I'm talkin to my dude in
Berlin in one window, and talking to another dude from
Australia in another window. I never actually met these dudes
in person, but they're cool." That's kinda crazy if you really
think about it, but it's the norm today.
I think graffiti can have the same debates as anything else
that's been developing over the past 20 or 30 years and has
changed dramatically with the adaptation of technology.
It's not just the graffiti world or art world that's changed
since the 90s, it's the world in general. Some things have
changed for the better, some things have changed for the
worse, but things are definitely different, and really the only
thing you can do is embrace the change and keep it moving.
RTL: It was through skateboarding you were introduced to
the graffiti world- do you think you would have found it otherwise?
boarding to some degree. I've always sort of been into drawing,
my dad used to dabble with tattooing and I was super into
Transformers and stuff as a kid but couldn't afford all the
dope ones so I'd draw my own. In 86 I saw some older kids at the
park trying suicide flips and head spins. I was in 1st grade and
got Run-DMC "Raising Hell" on cassette for my birthday.
I'd draw my little bubble letters. "Fresh" with a dude rocking
a moonwalk. Whenever we'd go into the city for a school trip or
if I was lucky..a baseball game, I always liked to look at the
highways for the graf but I didn't actually start my attempts at
writing graffiti till I was a little older, like 13 or 14. But I think
I would have been drawn to it at some point in my life, since I
was always fascinated with it, and had a bit of a love for mischief
as a kid.
RTL: There was a moment for you where you decided to focus
more on piecing not just tagging- what triggered that for you?
pieces, but the parking lot silvers and dope chunky simple styles
you'd see around Manhattan and along the Westside Highway
and BQE. Tags are essential to graffiti and are still pretty much
my favorite things to look at, but I got into trying to do simple
pieces and stuff like that. I wasn't old enough to see the NYC
Subway trains first hand but I did get to see a massive amount
of graffiti with style that the early 90s had. When I think of the
most personally influential pieces to me, most of it was done
within the early 90s era, or was featured in Subway or Spraycan Art.
RTL: You took a break from graffiti for a few years, what was the
main thing that brought you back to it? Did you ever really stop
or just kept it more low-key?
ENUE: When you let graffiti consume your life it can turn into
a major source of stress, but when you have to deal with real life
adult responsibilities like work and bills and all that good stuff,
graffiti can be a temporary escape from all that. I was kind of going
through some personal things after my dad passed away and basically
graffiti became my primary output again. I kind of stopped actively
painting for about 5 or 6 years but I always kept a blackbook and
doodled, I was just into some other forms of creative output as well.
RTL: You've done a bit of travel because of your graff - where have
you been and what were the best spots?
ENUE: Toronto and Montreal are fun for me because of the people
up there and the not-so-automatically-negative mindset when it
comes to painting on a wall with spraypaint. In NY, you could be
painting a McDonalds logo for Mayor Bloomberg, but if you're doing
it with spraypaint, you're automatically a potential criminal. I haven't
been to as many places as I'd like but everywhere I've been has been
cool because it's different then where I'm at. Doing a piece in a
completely non-english speaking country is kind of surreal. Taipei
was really cool. I hope I get to go to more places where I won't be
able to verbally communicate.
RTL: Anything you'd like to add....new projects, news, shout outs?
ENUE: Big ups to my COD, FC, XMEN, KAOS, NSF fambizzles.
Cop like 20 cases of Enrique's BONGGGG!!! from the new batch
of Ironlak colors because it pops like BONGGG!!!, and look out
for my album dropping December 33rd, 2022.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
So the second week of painting is done and dusted.
this week has seen artists like REAS, NOAH, STAK,
PURE and MICKEY grace the rooftop.
Here's a snap of mickey at work on her piece for the
show. Hailing from Amsterdam MICKEY has been
a kindergarten teacher, now a mother, and always
an artist. for more background on her you can check
her blog at:
There's also a pretty detailed section on her and her work
in the graffiti documentary BOMB IT, directed by John
Reiss - well worth checking out. For more info on
BOMB IT you can check it out on there site:
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Jaes One hit the roof last weekend. Here's a little bit more about
RTL: How long have you been writing for? Where are you based?
J: I've been doing graffiti for about 16 yrs, and live in NYC.
RTL: How did you get into graffiti, and what has it lead to with
other creative ventures?
J: Me and my friends got into graffiti via skateboard culture.
Skateboarding and graffiti have a lot in common such as:
expressing yourself stylistically, the rebellious natures of
both lifestyles, the desire to improve your skill sets and
explore your own creativity. I've always been interested in
visual forms of communication, art, and doing things my
own way. Right now I work mostly as an illustrator and
RTL: You're sponsored by IRONLAK, how did that come
about? What opportunities have come your way because of it?
J: To make a long story short, Wane COD introduced me and
Enue to some of the TMD (http://www.tmdcrew.com) guys,
they introduced us to Ironlak, and here we are.
We (the Ironlak USA team) have gotten to link up every few
months and do team walls in different cities. The Supervision
guys put together the videos. Huge shouts to them, check them
I think the best thing Ironlak has made happen is helping connect
talented/like-minded people from all over the world to collaborate
RTL: What are your thoughts on the ROOFTOP LEGENDS event?
Is this your first experience with the event?
J: This is my 4th time painting on the roof, I think its great.
I always say how cool it would have been to go to a school like this
that embraces kids creativity so much. I went to a really normal
school where me drawing all day was considered a problem.
If kids cant pay attention to school because they would rather draw,
they shouldn't be punished, they should be sent to art school to
explore their talents.
The graffiti / skatepark combination is really fresh. It helps
encourage kids to express themselves creatively, and on another
note: skateboarding is a real deal profession. If kids want to skate,
it should be encouraged just as much as any other sport.
RTL: Anything you want to add- new projects, news etc?
J: I'm pretty excited about some projects I have lined up this year
but I'm not at liberty to discuss them yet. 2009 was a blast, just more
painting and really looking forward to another year of doing it all
over again. So I Would just like to say thanks to everyone from
Ironlak, Levi (Ironlak) who In my opinion is responsible for a lot
of connecting the dots and facilitating good graffiti worldwide.
The Supervision guys in Chicago, Enue, Ali, Jee, EV, CiscoNYC,
Askew, Sirum, TMD Crew, Luke, Tues, Wane, Cope, Ovie, Rath,
Tkid, Keo, Cecs, Mare, Spot, Rime, Jick, Skinz, the guys at Tuff City,
Plaztikmag, Nostylgia, All of COD, KD, TNB, KMS, UPS, and all my
friends and family.
Monday, April 5, 2010
These are a couple of snaps from the last few days....
We'll be keeping you up-to-date with the shows progress
in anticipation of the MAY 8th show. There will also be
some artist interviews coming soon.
So far we've had DASH FC, CYCLE, ENUE, JAES, VIRUS,
KEO, SMITH, SPOT and MICKEY up on the roof.
The Rooftop Legends graffiti event began in 2007,
started and continued by the Dean of the New Design
High School, and graffiti artist, Jesse pais (EV).
Featuring artists from the cultures formative years
as well as prominent artists from today the schools
open rooftop space- occupying an entire city block,
becomes a living museum unlike anything else on
the island of Manhattan. Previous years have seen
writers and crews including: TATS CRU, REAS, TC5,
PART, CAN2, GHOST, CASE2, KAVES (LOB), REVOLT,
AOK (REAS, WOLF, NOAH), EWOK, TEAM (GO CLUB)
KEL, EZO, ZEPHYR, WANE, KEO, DOC AND EL CORO
to name a few. Artists come from across the globe,
hailing from NYC, Japan, Australia, Copenhagen, Sweden,
Norway, Amsterdam and the Czech Republic among others.
Serious thanks are due to all the artists that have played
a part in Rooftop Legends from 2007 to today, they have
donated their time, supplies and energy to make it possible.
New Design High School is located in the Lower East Side
of New York City. With the NYC skyline as the shows backdrop
this is something that cannot be replicated.
**Images above from the 2009 Rooftop Legends event artists
in order of appearance: KAVES (LOB), CYCLE (TC5), TRIXTER,
BATH 175 (DOC TC5), DOVES (TC5), TC5 /COD/ CAN2,
& 2009 show flyer featuring TATS CRU)