Friday, September 28, 2012

NYC Graffitti Hall of Fame

(James top of James Top Productions) I’ve said it many times; an artist usually will choose their tools based on what is around them when they first get the creative spark. Perhaps a little boy’s father had an old guitar in the basement, or a little girl found her mother’s lipstick behind the couch. Did you go to art class in high school and the teacher only had clay around? What about being a pre-teen and your mom sent you out to buy a loaf of bread, only to find the neighborhood kids “tagging” the side of the bodega? I know growing up in the 80’s, some of my fondest memories were of the boys break dancing on the block on top of opened cardboard boxes. I remember my cousins and the older boys sneaking spray paint cans out of my garage and spray painting whatever wall they could find. I also remember them getting in trouble, and being regarded as vandals because they defaced public property. What is sad is that these were the stories heard and broadcasted publically, and it took away from the beauty of the art form that we know as graffiti. Graffiti is indeed an art, born out of the streets of New York, and other inner cities, it has had the greatest influence on what we know to be Hip-hop culture today. Originating in the New York City subways, graffiti was an expression of a culture that expressed themselves loudly and colorfully with its music, fashion, and even political involvement. By definition, the word graffiti is defined as markings, initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, or wall of a building. Some of the most common styles of graffiti have their own names. A "tag" is the most basic writing of an artist's name; it is simply a hand style. A graffiti writer's tag is his or her personalized signature. Tagging is often the example given when opponents of graffiti refer to any acts of hand style graffiti writing (it is by far the most common form of graffiti). Tags can contain subtle and sometimes cryptic messages, and might incorporate the artist's crew initials or other letters. We don’t see it anymore on the E or the A trains. If we see it on a wall anywhere, it was artfully placed with the permission of the owner. Due to laws passed that attempted to label graffiti as vandalism and defacement, great lengths have been taken by the artists over the years to preserve the integrity and expression of the much loved and respected art form. Graffiti is urban pride, our modern day Venus die Milo, our reference to a movement that is withstanding and globally identified.
I’ve come across a movement who knows firsthand the power and pleasure of the graffiti art form, and works tirelessly to preserve its legacy. James Top Productions was created by legendary graffiti artist James Top in 1998 to create unique graffiti art experiences that focus on many areas from educational workshops, lectures, gallery, event presentations, murals, video production, tours, and graffiti artwork to community and charity projects. James Top Productions has worked with some of the world's most recognizable brands such as ABC Sports, SONY and Time Warner to name a few, along with a roster of premiere graffiti artists here in NYC and beyond. September 22, 2012, James hosted the NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame in East Harlem, New York. Located at 106 and Park Avenue, the event showcased Live Graffiti Art by the 2012 Graffiti Hall of Fame Artists. They were painting as onlookers took pictures and watched the magic happening before their eyes. The crowd was ethnically diverse, as I saw so many representing the graffiti culture. One common thing was shared, this I can tell you. The respect and love for what so many of us have been influenced by in every way here in America was evident. You could see chests puffed from the artists, and the admirers alike.
(I and the legendary Albert "Lava1&2" Mercado) Graced by the musical appearances of Mic Mania, The Legendary Grand Master Caz of The Cold Crush Bros. & Rodney “C” of Double Trouble, it really was a beautiful time of hip hop authenticity. Actually for me, being there inspired ideas for a photo shoot. The colors on the school ground walls spoke to me. The contrasts and the lines gave me a vision to do something quite similar in makeup. I will keep you posted on that….:) The NYC Graffiti Hall of Fame was a splendid display of the new generation of artists who have taken the torch and keep it lit brightly. My 17 year old was perturbed, not knowing where I had gone. Him being a music aficionado, he expressed how he would love to have been there. I wasn’t even thinking about the influence of it all reaching all the way back to his generation. Though I am quite aware it has. His responses however, solidified that indeed the movement is as strong and relevant as ever. Again, I was so grateful to be surrounded by creative souls, expressing themselves in their truest form. An artist is an artist, no matter your medium, no matter your canvass, and no matter how you chose either of the above. Art is just that. For more information about James Top Productions, visit,
(Grand Master Caz and Special K)
(We think we are models:)told you a shoot was inspired....)

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