12 Legendary New York graffiti writers that you should know before 2023

new york graffiti paintings

The New York graffiti movement has its origins in the lower-income neighbourhoods of Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. The young generation of the late 1970s was disillusioned, having grown up in a world of ethnic tensions. Tagging, which was merely the practice of ornamenting your handle onto a surface to designate territory, became popular during the decade.

Tagging over a tag became a cardinal offence that might result in violent retaliation. It became a tool for street gangs to let people know they were on their land. Despite the development of the city’s street art culture, graffiti remains a potent force to be reckoned within New York.

Who are the 12 chosen legendary New York graffiti artists for this article?

1-. Futura

Futura photography, contemporary art artist

Lenny McGurr is popular as Futura, also known as Futura2000. He is a New York graffiti artists now considered as a contemporary and urban art icon. As a graffiti artist, he has contributed to the art world tremendously. Mr. McGurr is still active today, and it is well-admired by artists and art enthusiasts. He brought abstraction into a historically letter-based art medium by painting entire subway trains with his vibrant paintings in the 1970s.

His artworks have had a significant impact on New York City’s graffiti culture. Moreover, Futura is a well-known graphic designer, photographer, painter, and sculptor whose avant-garde works will never go out of style, positively influencing emerging artists.

2-. Lady Pink, a female writer in the New York graffiti movement

Female New York graffiti

Lady Pink (Ecuadorian artist Sandra Fabara) is one of the most well-known female street artists in Queens, New York graffiti. What began as a simple tagging of her long-lost love’s name around New York, swiftly became one of the most popular street art professions. She took her sadness to the streets when she picked up her first can of spray paint in 1979, looking for a way to cope with her love’s death.

Lady Pink remained the only notable female artist in New York’s graffiti scene for a long time. Her place as a pop icon was established by her instantly identifiable 1990s murals and subway cars, which included somewhat whimsical motifs with camouflaged graffiti.

3-. Blade

In 1972, Blade started painting original characters, and in 1980, he began using subway rails as canvases to display his conceptual works. He is a well-known New York graffiti artist and proud owner of the moniker King of Graffiti. He is one of the pioneers of the 1970s graffiti movement. Blade, a true graffiti pioneer, painted almost 5,000 pieces during that time.

He rapidly moved to paint canvases, earning international praise for his decision. LINKPLACER99 Blade, who is credited for inventing several well-known graffiti styles, has remained active in modern art for a long time.

4-. Cope2

Cope2 original style and tecnique

Fernando Carlo, popularly known as Cope2, is a prominent Bronx, New York graffiti artist who has been active in the street art scene for nearly four decades. He achieved international acclaim for his distinctive wildstyle and throw-up bubble letter graffiti in the mid-1990s. Cope2 has been one of the creators of the New York City graffiti art community.

Since then, Cope2’s graffiti art has attained considerable mainstream popularity, resulting in commissioned pieces for companies such as Adidas, Converse, Time Magazine and many others. His abstract studio paintings have been exhibited in contemporary art galleries and auctions worldwide, with their overwhelming raw vitality. Cope2’s art has made its way into the virtual world, thanks to his appearances in video games.

5-. Kenny Scharf

Scharf is one of the oldest New York graffiti artists

Mr. Scharf was born in Los Angeles in 1958 and became a major part of the East Village art community in the 1980s after graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York graffiti City. He is a well-known painter, installation, and graffiti artist who lived in Brooklyn area, known for his artworks inspired by pop culture and comic books and connected with the Lowbrow movement. Hanna Barbera’s cartoon figures largely influenced early works by Scharf, but he gradually switched to biomorphic imagery, which he achieved with astounding results.

In the late 1980s, Kenny Scharf garnered international notice with a series of Glob paintings inspired by abstract expressionism and surrealism. For instance, his most recent series of paintings, dubbed “Naturafutura,” were inspired by his artistic residence in a studio located in coastal Brazil, but also influenced by the British Petrol oil spill incident and portrayed abstract swirls of black paint.

Why should we pay tribute to these New York graffiti artists?

6-. Dondi White

The most important New york graffiti artist

Donald Joseph White, aka Dondi White, was an New York graffiti artist born in 1961. His career began with the most influential graffiti painters from that time. His desire to create and his remarkable talent made him one of the twentieth century’s best known writers. Dondi’s style was vivid and bright.

Because he wanted his work to be acknowledged and shared, Dondi always wrote in a clear and defined manner, just like a professional essay writer does on paper. It was a healthy level of ambition, and this gifted artist had mastered street art craft. He successfully transitioned from street art to gallery art after years of tagging. He worked with his CIA and Soul Artist crews on the streets, but he conducted the majority of the job himself.

7-. Who is the most important New York graffiti writer of all times? SEEN

Richard Mirando, better known as Seen and dubbed the “Godfather of Graffiti,” is a well-known New York graffiti artist. In the early 1970s, Seen began spray-painting NYC subway trains as a teenager. He soon achieved to receive recognition, even from the general audience, because of his brightly coloured letters and cartoon creatures.

He was one of the first street painters to bring urban art into commercial galleries in the 1980s, exhibiting his work in group shows alongside prominent contemporary artists like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. During this period, he opened his tattoo parlour, which quickly became popular in the city.

8-. Lee Quinones

George Lee Quinones is a well-known American artist from Manhattan best known for Zoro, the movie character from the hip-hop cult classic Wild Style. His Lower East Side handball court painting, which is recognized for influencing the entire street art movement, and the massive complete car murals he painted on the surface of NYC Subway vehicles from 1975 to 1984 earned him a reputation. We’re definitely talking about a true hero in the New York graffiti culture.

Quinones is the founder of the NYC Subway graffiti movement. Since then he began writing graffiti in the early 1970s and has been involved in ground-breaking projects. He is also credited with being one of the first street artists to promote graffiti outside of the US, the first one in the United States to do so.

9-. Zephyr

NYC wholecar

Andrew Witten is a prominent New York graffiti artist who rose to prominence during the 1970s Bandshell movement. He quickly became well-known , and he was one of the first graffiti painters to attain economic success and exhibit in
galleries. He is acknowledged as the developer of various graffiti styles still extensively used today.

Zephyr started his street art career in 1977 by spray-painting his tag on freight trains and subway vehicles, which is why so much of his early work is now lost forever. He is one of the graffiti artists who helped kickstart the freight train graffiti craze. Being 54 years old, he is regarded as a graffiti elder but cannot stop himself from tagging his
name on walls.

10-. Daze

Daze spray paint, US

Chris Ellis, also known as Daze, is a member of the legendary New York graffiti painters who emerged from the South Bronx in the 1970s, including Lee Quinones. Paradoxically, he graduated in NYC’s streets and subways, majoring in exterior graphic design. Daze displayed his skills by painting and drawing tags on subway trains and walls in Brooklyn. He attended the elite New York High School of Art and Design and majored in external graphic design. He painted and drew markings on subway trains and walls in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Like many other well-known street artists, Daze began painting on canvas in the early 1980s and quickly began exhibiting his work in galleries across the world. He has become an instant hit, and if that weren’t enough, he would be a household name.

11-. Revolt

REVOLT is a founding member of the historic NYC subway graffiti crew, The Rolling Thunder Writers. He was born and raised in NYC, with graffiti roots dating back to the early 1970s (RTW). With significantly influenced psychedelic and comic art stylings, he was known for his ultra-colourful tags and intricate pieces on the Broadway #1 line, and later, taking it “all-city”.

Contributions to the pioneering classic hip-hop flick “Wild Style” and “Style Wars,” as well as his involvement in the East Village art scene in the 1980s, several music videos and album covers, animation, comics, vinyl toy design, and the creation of the legendary “YO! MTV Raps’ logo. His early 1980s tour of duty in Baltimore is renowned, as he single-handedly launched a graffiti movement there as a “Messenger of Style.”

12-. Haze

Haze is a New York based graffiti artist

Eric Haze, an NYC native, has spent over four decades contributing to the realms of New York graffiti, contemporary art, and graphic design. He spent his early years as a founding member of The Soul Artists, a renowned collective with whom he first showed work in 1974.

In the early 1980s, Haze exhibited paintings and sketches with close friends like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He quickly established himself as the top graphic designer of the booming hip-hop movement after turning his concentration from galleries to applied arts in the mid- ’80s, creating iconic logos and album covers for some of the genre’s most significant figures.

Cooltourspain’s opinion about the New York graffiti movement

Graffiti and street art are culturally significant because of their individualistic nature and the ability to beautify and enhance public spaces. It is a highly visible way of speaking out on political, social, and economic issues. The New York graffiti artists mentioned above have produced amazing art to fulfil the purpose. We appreciate their time and effort.

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