There is a long-winded, obscure history of North American railroad markings, otherwise known as monikers, that by many accounts predates the popularized New York graffiti tale. Depending on whom you’re speaking to, the chronology and key players may differ drastically.
Ultimately, this is a direct result of a folklore culture, where publicizing information was once shamed and ostracizing was probable. In the mid ‘90s, monikers began to take on a new form, evolving from the traditional signature and character-based style. Troy Lovegates, once known as Other, began to make his presence known in the North American boxcar pool. Working with conventional oil bars used by previous generations, Troy applied not just black or white when he drew, but instead used both to create abnormal, oddly distorted, well-rendered characters. What made Troy’s work really stand out was his shading and texturized faces, created solely by using his fingers. They were a remarkable rarity unlike anything else. “Trains are amazing like that. All that work and history just fades into oblivion. It is hearsay. Bonfire tales and great stories off into the night air,” Troy tells me.
I don’t see graffiti when looking at Vizie’s newest body of work and that’s a good thing. As confusing as that may sound, placing graffiti in a gallery setting can often water down the message, spoil the magic and sabotage the surprise. Obviously, there are exceptions.
Laid back, soft-spoken and unassuming, Vizie doesn’t project typical graffiti writer demeanor. He’s easily likable and realistic. Already well-established and recognized in the spray game, Vizie is now committed to delving seriously into his studio practice. Having lived in New York for eight years now but traveling constantly for six, Vizie discloses, “My decision to travel less allows me to really focus on my studio practice and personal life, and I feel like I could eventually move just outside of the city. But it’s a little scary to imagine taking a step away from NY after all the work it’s taken to remain and survive here. A lot of New Yorkers have a hard time imagining living anywhere else, and I relate to that.” Last year he opened his first solo exhibition in New York under his long used nickname and surprised many with what he had up his sleeve. Deviating from the traditional canvas format, abstract wood sculptures are adorned with textures and layers in a monochromatic color palette. The peeled, sliced and chipped away surfaces reveal what previously existed underneath. For now, red appears to be the predominant color of choice, with rare special guest appearances from other hues. Some prominent elements include mangled chain link fences, shattered glass, torn paper, and noticeably present bricks. They’re easy on the eyes and the most recent batch displays a psychedelic touch, exuding a radiating, luminous quality when viewed under a black light.
Long before the railroad cars of North America were littered with spray paint scrawls and under more strict and paranoid post-9/11 surveillance, enigmatic markings of a cowboy smoking a pipe overwhelmingly adorned railcars across the country and created mysticism as to who was responsible.
These esoteric characters have been present for nearly 40 years and are often accompanied with phrases, various fictitious names, and early titles such as Gypsysphinx, The Grab Iron Kid, Tramp Royale, and eventually, “Colossus of Roads” as permanent identification.
The individual responsible for these mysterious markings was later exposed to a broader audience when Bill Daniel released his 16-years-in-the-making vagabondage railroad film project Who is Bozo Texino? The author’s identity was surprising to everyone, as false speculation had circulated forever. In the film a much older, well-spoken, bearded gentleman wearing a cowboy hat appears on screen as he proclaims ownership and explains the meaning behind a number of phrases written under the famed moniker. The audience discovers that they are self-portraits and, in a bold proclamation, the artist states, “More self-portraits than Picasso or Rembrandt or Van Gough or any of ‘em out riding the rails. Have a lot larger audience than they ever had in their lifetime.”
His artistic undertakings are not limited to his work on railcars, but extend to photography, archiving, book making, stenciling, installations, and mail art, through which he has been corresponding with others under the name buZ blurr for over 30 years. The importance of his artwork has been long overlooked and with a limited word count for this interview, covering the depth of his story is an impossible reach.
I moved to San Diego for a short stint back in 1999, exactly 17 years ago, and that very same year Eric Elms, who was born and raised there, up and left for New York, never to return.
“There wasn’t room for both of us,” Eric said when I briefed him on this fact. He’s right; we both wanted all those rolled tacos to ourselves. Making the jump out East at such an ambitious age was most likely one of the main factors in Eric’s creative success. Another being the roster of those he has worked for – whether artists or businesses, all have become some of the most recognizable names in their respective industries. Eric, over time and largely in part of his work ethic of producing continuous, quality results, became a designer sought after by countless household and underground brands. While his design career was thriving, Eric began to experiment with materials outside of the mouse and monitor, intended more for the white walls of a gallery. This work has morphed and evolved from large, text-based sculptural objects to prints, to paintings, to basketball hoop planters. His most recent body of work involves a series of layered heat processes with black rubber dots applied to canvas that, in Eric’s words, resemble, “Ben-Day and halftone patterns and the energy in photocopies and zines.” They are inventive in process and in person have an intriguing quality that is hard to make comparisons with. Somewhere along the way, AndPress was established to fulfill Eric’s desire to publish tangible products from his circle of talented and well-known friends. The company has since published an array of titles with every attention to detail being considered in the final product. Described as a passion project, AndPress reflects Eric’s visionary appetite in a multitude of mediums.
The FlopBox and SFAQ Projects are proud to announce our newest publication, Your House is My Houseby Swampy now available in our ZINES SECTION.
20 pages, 11″ x 17″, offset printed on newsprint, edition of 500. A Special edition of 50 are offered with an accompanying mixtape, each hand recorded, constructed and signed by the artist to coincide with Your House is My House.
Comprised of photographs from Swampy’s squatting experiences, along with drawings, ephemera and mixed media.
Did you see our interview with Swampy here?
The FlopBox is proud to announce our newest publication, Personal Property by Edwin De La Rosa now available in our ZINES SECTION.
36 pages, 8.5″ x 11″, full color laser printed, hand numbered. Edition of 100. 2016.
Did you see the interview with did with Edwin here?
The FlopBox is proud to announce our newest publication, Not Even by Sluto now available in our ZINES SECTION.
A collection of illustrations, paintings, doodles and anecdotes from Planet Sluto.
24 pages, 8.5″ x 11″, color laser printed, hand numbered. Edition of 100.
Did you see the interview we did with Sluto here?
In honor of Mary Ellen Mark’s passing last year, Austin McManus re-created a pennant from her photograph “Pro-Vietnam Demonstration” taken in New York in 1968. Printed in edition of 15. Now available in the new pennants section.