A key figure among New York street artists, Al Diaz is best known for collaborating with Jean-Michel Basquiat on the iconic SAMO© tag, a sardonic graffiti tag that was highly visible throughout Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s. The son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Diaz began tagging under the name Bomb-One in his early teens. He and Basquiat spray-painted fragments of irreverent slogans on buildings around SoHo and the School of Visual Arts.
Art curator and critic Jeffrey Deitch called it “disjointed street poetry” and remembered that “back in the late seventies, you couldn’t go anywhere interesting in Lower Manhattan without noticing that someone named SAMO© had been there first.” One Basquiat biographer noted that "while some of the phrases might seem political, none of them were simple propaganda slogans. Some were outright surrealist or looked like fragments of poetry." Al recognized the original intelligence in their work: “The stuff you see on the subways now is inane. Scribbled. SAMO© was like a refresher course because there’s some kind of statement being made. It’s not just ego graffiti.”
Since 2016, Diaz has revived the SAMO© tag and updated its political commentary for the Trump era. He also cuts out and rearranges letters from service change posters and wet paint signs from the New York City subway system to create poignant collaged anagrams.
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