Zephyr and Angel Ortiz Can’t Give Up the Spray Paint

Posted on: July 31st, 2012 at 6:28 am by

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Credit: AP

Growing up doesn’t necessarily mean putting away the spray can. New York City is Neverland, after all. This was basically the gist of an article published on the AP wire over the weekend. Graffiti elder-statesmen ZEPHYR (51) and Angel “LA II” Ortiz (45) both received some national exposure as a result.

Graffiti art is becoming super trendy these days, as evidence by all the corporate-commissioned pieces around town. And especially on the Lower East Side. Like anything else, though, we shouldn’t forget those who put the artform on the map. Or…subway car.

Author Bonny Ghosh talks about the itchy urge that led to Ortiz’s arrest for tagging a billboard last March, and how ZEPHYR (Andrew Witten) now tags shit while walking with his six-year-old daughter.

Witten built a reputation as a master at spray-painting extravagant graffiti pieces on freight and subway trains, called train-bombing, in the neighborhoods where he now teaches his 6-year-old daughter, Lulu, to skateboard. For him, spray-painting other people’s property with his nickname, or tag, is almost an addiction, and danger is part of the drug. Crawling under barbed wire, ducking from police officers, even being shot at is all part of the experience.

When a pair of police officers smelled the fresh paint and nabbed Ortiz, they asked if he saw himself as too old to be doing graffiti. But even now, Ortiz keeps a spray can or marker in his pocket to satisfy that incessant itch to tag mailboxes, signs and fire hydrants.

Ortiz often recalls those golden days in the ’80s, when graffiti became the focal point of the counterculture art world and he partied with Madonna and Andy Warhol. He still lives in the neighborhood where a young art school dropout named Keith Haring showed up at his doorstep in cutoff jeans and glasses asking about his tagging style.

Remember when Ortiz added his mark to the Keith Haring memorial mural at the Bowery graffiti wall four years ago? Of course you do…

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July 2008

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