NYC Graffiti Origins: Mike “2ESAE” Baca & Fernando “Ski” Romero

Posted on: April 5th, 2013 at 12:09 pm by
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[Children of the Grave Again, Part 3, by Dondi, 1980. M.Cooper]On January 1, 2006, councilmembers in NYC attempted to make it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to possess spray paint or permanent markers.

I’ve been carrying sharpies with me since I was 12.

Tagging and bombing was a right of passage for so many of us – luckily I never made it past the juvenile stage, turning instead to history (since I’m terrible at drawing, and I draw the line on drawing on historic structures). And so, like all things NYC, there is always the history of its graffiti.

Welcome to Boogie’s version of it.

Spray paint origins? From The Devil in the White City (amazing book, by the way):

Francis Davis Millet is generally credited with the invention of spray painting. In 1892, working under extremely tight deadlines to complete construction of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Daniel Burnham appointed Millet to replace the fair’s official director of color, William Pretyman. Pretyman had resigned following a dispute with Burnham. After experimenting, Millet settled on a mix of oil and white lead that could be applied using a hose and special nozzle, which would take considerably less time than traditional brush painting.

Spray can origins? From the New York Times:

Ed Seymour, the proprietor of a Sycamore, Ill., paint company, was in search of an easy way to demonstrate his aluminum coating for painting radiators. His wife suggested a makeshift spray gun, like those used for deodorizers. And so, in 1949, Seymour mixed paint and aerosol in a can with a spray head. As it turned out, compressing paint in a can made for a nice finish.

Many credit the birth certificate of graff to Phil.Illadelphia in the 1960s, and as soon as the mid-seventies, graffiti had a “Golden Age,” having spread across the Northeast hitting NYC in the early 70s cans in hands.

Check out a gallery of photographer Henry Chalfant‘s photos of subways in the Golden Age. Our city would never be the same.

From Subway Art by Martha Cooper (who recently received a Houston Street tribute for her 70th) and Henry Chalfant:

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[BLADE MAZE. H. Chalfant ]

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[Revolt Min 1981. H.Chalfant}Maybe you lived through the Golden Age, maybe you used to write, or maybe you still do. Whether you ran solo or were part of a crew, graffiti is as exhilarating and dope as much now as it was back then.

Why?

Because now graff is generally considered an accepted and sought-after medium of art, not to mention a permanent (no pun intended) and significant part of our city’s history.

I decided to call some old friends and make some new ones for this little featurette. Luckily, I didn’t burn any bridges when I handed in my training wheel can for a pen.

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[Cops in the train, the Bronx, 1981Revolt Min, 1981. M.Cooper]Ladies and Gents – graffiti artists who not only grace our streets with their art, but actually make a living selling their work:

First up in this series, 2ESAE (aka Mike Baca) and SKI (aka Fernando Romero).

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These Queens-born, Brooklyn-based best friends just installed an exhibit in the Citigroup Building. Talk about doing big things.

Made possible by Pop International, UR New York and corporate America are entwined whether they like it or not.

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This duo also designed an interior that is featured on a new VH1 show, Black Ink Crew, and painted the inside of hot dog hut Los Perros Locos. They’ve been highlighted in magazines such as Time Out and Playboy. Check out their client list which ranges from Barney’s to 5 Pointz

Speaking with Mike, I called him a “heavy hitter.” He laughed and said “I think I might have to tweet that.”

Nothing, if not modest.

Or maybe it just hasn’t hit them yet that they have succeeded at turning an art form into art that people want to buy. Folks, it doesn’t get much more corporate than Citigroup. Besides, Wall Street of course, and hey, with these dudes, sky’s the limit.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget UR New York has taken over the subway system. I’d say being viewed by millions of people weekly is one hell of an influence.  Check it out:

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Be who you are. Made in New York,” is their motto. It is meant to promote creativity and to impress upon their fans to stand out and be  individuals.

Throughout every conversation we had, Fernando and Mike emphasized that they are all about giving back.  They also highlighted how important it is for them  to work with children- “the next generation of artists.”  They currently have a workshop with CAW [Creative Art Workshops for Kids] in Harlem.

They take nothing for granted and respect those who have helped along the way. “We don’t talk about shit, we are about it.”

The press, the exposure, the workshops and being featured in a corporate venue (with proceeds going to kids foundations); one might conclude that these imprints and their influence will ensure the UR New York legacy will resonate long after this humble pair retires. I’d say that’s being about it.

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Check out their blog for the latest news about shows and installations.

UR New York and so are they.

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