Sitting in the gallery with one of my interns working out our plan for the day, a familiar face made an appearance in our doorway. Vogue, one of the forefathers of Bay area graffiti, stepped in to get a better look at Mac's new show. Shrugging his shoulders sheepishly he says, " Well it was a bit difficult to get a really good look at the show during the opening so I thought I'd swing by when it was less crowded." Now residing outside of the city, he doesn't often make the trek over the bridge. As with all artists, their humble beginnings are (to me) the most fascinating. So, of course, I asked Vogue how and why he began painting graffiti...
He simply responded, " PBS. Style Wars man."
You could see on his face that he was immediately transported back to a time when hitting up walls was very underground, very exhilarating, and a unifying endeavor. In the very beginning the concepts of turf and crews were more innocent. He described it more like boys joining a secret tree-house club in a neighbors backyard...just less legal.
Curious as to how someone became involved in a crew, if it was only a budding movement back then in SF, I asked him what a crew consisted of.
" Well, back then (1983-84) it was more of a secret thing...you would have your secret spots, you would eyeball other guys and wonder if they too were hitting up walls around the city. Since there weren't many of us out there we naturally gravitated towards each other." He describes that time period as the "golden age", a time when supplies were scarce and he and his friends would wander into hardware stores to ehm... 'borrow' the necessary tools.
Laughingly, he recounts a time when he and his friend needed caps and had no money. His friend, who was planning on becoming a pilot (at the time), refused to help him ' borrow' supplies for fear of consequence so Vogue went in for a solo mission. With a sparkle in his eye he tells us how he used to un-cap the can, bite off the cap, and store the tips in his cheeks. Like a chipmunk ready for winter he would walk out a happy man.
Not being very well versed in the art of 'borrowing' supplies I asked him why he would bite the tips off and keep them in his mouth? Laughing he says, " Well, it's the fastest way- pop the top, bite and store- pop the cap back on and you move on to the next can. It's not like now when you can walk into a store and ask for whichever tip you need. We had to learn it all on our own.We had to learn which tips could produce what and how to find and acquire those tips."
Now running a successful company out in San Leandro, Vogue doesn't paint as often as he would like, "too much at risk..." he says, "... and besides, my lady can't stand it when I go out to paint." (he shrugs charmingly).
"So, does that mean you no longer paint , apart from your job?" I asked, astonished that after 25 years on the scene someone could get that out of their blood.
He laughed and shook his head. " Naw, I still get up."