Hailing from Brooklyn, Atramentous 25-year old artisan Michael Stewart abutting the arising East Village art arena in 1983 aback he busy his aboriginal flat in the Anderson Theater for $25 a month. In the aboriginal morning hours of September 15 of that year, Stewart and his associate George Condo approved to get into a affair at Keith Haring’s Broome Street attic afore hitting up the Pyramid Club on Avenue A. Ready to arch home, Stewart entered the L alternation base on Aboriginal Avenue and 14th Street.
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New York Burghal Transit Cast Officer John Kostick afterwards testified beneath adjuration that he saw Stewart autograph graffiti on the bank at 2:30 a.m. He claimed Stewart surrendered afterwards resistance, but again attempted to run while handcuffed, tripped, and fell face first. Added assemblage testified to seeing Stewart atrociously beaten, shouting “someone advice me, addition advice me!” afore actuality belted and befuddled in a cast van. Half an hour later, Stewart accustomed at Bellevue Hospital comatose. He never regained alertness and died on September 28. Two years later, an all-white board acquitted the six NYPD admiral answerable in the killing of Michael Stewart.
Stewart’s afterlife did not go unrecognized—then or now. In Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story, bedfellow babysitter Chaédria LaBouvier has organized a acutely affective exhibition that takes Jean-Michel Basquiat’s acutely claimed and rarely apparent painting fabricated the anniversary of Stewart’s afterlife as its starting point, aperture a chat about cast atrocity that transcends the time in which the assignment was made.
We brought calm a accumulation of allegorical graffiti writers and aeon of Basquiat and Stewart to reflect on actual New York in the 1980s.
I anamnesis aback Michael Stewart was killed. I anticipation it was horrific… You had to accept 360 degrees of eyes about your head—especially aback then, because the cops were hunting us down. In the 80s with [Mayor] Koch, there was a lot of abhorrence appear graffiti artists.
In my all-encompassing adventure through the correctional system, I alone accept confronted cast brutality. I was a aficionado for 19 years, so I’ve been bound up abounding times. I was actuality candy at Rikers Island while activity through heroin withdrawal, and the assistant told the cop who collection the bus, “This guy is actuality difficult.” He took me into a aback room, put on elastic gloves, and exhausted the bits out of me. I’m not a big fan of the NYPD. I’m 60 and I still feel that way. I’ve met some acceptable cops but there are a lot of abominable animal beings that were accustomed a cast and a gun and that’s dangerous.
As a affiliate of the ROLLING THINDER WRITERS, Lin Felton, additionally accepted as QUIK, aboriginal met Jean-Michel Basquiat at RTW architect BILROCK’s Upper West Side home. A able artist, Felton has lived and formed abroad for 27 years of his developed life. [Editor’s Note: this account was conducted over email, and we accept preserved Felton’s accent as written.]
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Jean had already denounced his “fame” as SAMO, and approved to re-invent himself as a added burghal diviner than vandal. As we would go off to acrylic our admired alms cars for the 100th or 1,000th time, Jean roamed the streets scribbling his aphotic cryptic balladry aloft the azoic brick facades, monuments to man’s alleged progress.
As an afro-Amerikkkan built-in and aloft in New York Burghal back 1958, the blackmail of cast atrocity adjoin our bearing was real. Although I went to university and formed at IBM, I accepted to be murdered by the cast due to the blush of my skin. Michael Stewart was addition anatomy added to the ever-increasing anatomy calculation of Amerikkka’s genocidal practices. His annihilation was buried to a well-written betrayal in The Village Voice, presenting the plight of New York’s burghal adolescence to a altered audience. The all-embracing affect was that this too can appear to you behindhand of race, creed, or disobedient antics.
I was apprehended four times in my “career” as QUIK. My best un-fond anamnesis was actuality singled out of a accumulation of six nabbed alfresco a alternation accumulator lay-up. The cast announced, “Put the acrylic on the n—–” (meaning allegation me with the crime). Subsequently, the added bristles white men were accustomed cloister actualization tickets and set chargeless while I began my abbreviate yet agonizing acquaintance through the administrative system. Later, in axial booking, the anticipation of actuality assemblage raped concluded my career as a graffiti painter in New York City.
Chris Pape, additionally accepted as FREEDOM, is an American painter, author, and graffiti artisan who started tagging trains in 1974 as GEN II. Pape is best accepted for his paintings in the Amtrak “Freedom” Adit on Manhattan’s West Side, which went out of operation in 1980 and became a anchorage for graffiti writers and abandoned bodies alike.
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I knew Jean-Michel. We weren’t abutting friends, but about 1980, he would appear to the Anatomy Artists’ meetings, and afterwards we would accept banquet at [founder] ALI’s place. Again they would go off to do drugs and I would footfall away. I wasn’t into the burghal scene. For those of us who were graffiti writers, we ran assertive risks. ALI was in a abhorrent access aback he was painting trains; he had catechize burns and about died. You could run bottomward the continued account of bodies who got smacked about by cops and abject by trains.
I didn’t apperceive Michael Stewart, but his adventure affected me, so I did a painting of him in the Freedom Adit and one on canvas that afraid in my flat for years. It was a arresting image; it came from the East Village Eye. Michael Stewart could accept been any one of us continuing in that alternation base autograph our names. He died for article we did.
The Parks Department buffed the painting in the adit about immediately. They were censoring paintings bottomward there but I didn’t apperceive that until later, cerebration about what paintings they agape out and what paintings survived. The painting was in atramentous and argent and it said “Rest in Peace Michael Stewart.” It was adverse from the RIP painting I did for CAINE, but the Parks Department didn’t acrylic over that—I assumption because CAINE wasn’t asleep by a cop.
West Rubinstein, additionally accepted as WEST ONE, is an artist, VP of Supreme, and co-founder of PNB Nation, the streetwear cast that created the iconic HELLO MY NAME IS T-shirt, which adapted the iconic graffiti sticker in admiration to Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpurs, and Phillip Pannell, all of whom died at the easily of cast amid 1983 and 1990.
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I started autograph on the trains in the winter of ’83—right afterwards the abundant renaissance of graffiti accurate in Style Wars, Wild Style, and Alms Art. The burghal went on a abundant buffing attack appropriate afterwards that; amid ’83 and ’84, the trains were a asleep zone.
[…] PNB was created by a Puerto Rican, a Jew, a Chinese Jamaican, and an African American. Best of our parents were activists, or we had lots of abstract in our homes from revolutionaries and radicals over assorted sorts, so we grew up with this berry in our heads. We acclimated the accent and artful of graffiti to accomplish the “HELLO MY NAME IS” shirt to accomplish adolescent bodies pay attention. For us, it was about acquaintance of the cast accompaniment and disability of predominantly Atramentous and amber people, the alive class, and the disenfranchised.
When you attending at it from a amusing cerebral point of view, the aspect of graffiti is I abide and I was here. It’s adolescent bodies asserting themselves in situations area they don’t accept addition way. The axiological animal acute alfresco adaptation is to be known. We appetite to be seen, and we appetite to be heard.
Basquiat’s “Defacement:” The Untold Adventure is on appearance at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York through November 6, 2019.
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