Al Diaz aka Bomb 1’s career spans five decades. A prolific and influencial first generation NYC subway graffiti artist, who later became a text-orientated street artist. He co-founded the mythical art duo SAMO© with the iconic Jean-Michel Basquiat. The pair used the title, accompanied by short phrases, in turns poetic and sarcastic, spray painted on the streets of downtown Manhattan starting in 1977.
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.” The project would cumulate in early 1980 with the final "SAMO© IS DEAD" tags being issued immediately before Basquiat shifted his focus towards canvases and gallery work, making it a pivotal point in the art world.
"The incident that actually 'threw the switch' for the new wave of SAMO© graffiti was Donald Trump winning the election. I needed an outlet for expressing my disappointment with our nation as a whole. I can only say but so much with my WET PAINT signage due to the restrictions (3 vowels, 21 characters in total). Dragging SAMO© out of retirement was the natural solution."
- Al Diaz, 2017
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