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Albert Diaz (artist)

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Albert Diaz[edit | edit source]

Al Diaz, born on June 10, 1959 to Puerto Rican parents in New York City is best known for his collaboration with Jean Michel Basquiat on SAMO©, graffiti that appeared in lower Manhattan from 1977 to 1979. SAMO© initially became known because of its wit and sarcastic humor; but became a globally recognized graffito after Basquiat’s rise to fame.

A prolific and influential first-generation NYC subway graffiti artist, who later became a text-oriented street artist, Al Diaz’s career spans 5 decades. He currently works with WET PAINT signs used throughout the New York City subway system. After cutting out individual letters to create clever, surreal and sometimes poignant anagrams, he hangs the finished works in subways stations throughout New York City. His WET PAINT work was  featured in the 21st Precinct Street Art Event ( July,2014) , a solo show at “Outlaw Arts”  (March, 2015) and  will appear in the upcoming book, “Street Messages” by Nicholas Ganz.

He has been a featured speaker on a variety of panel discussions, including at The New School, The Museum of the City of New York, and NOLA Arts Festival in New Orleans.

Career[edit | edit source]

Al's beginnings as an artist started with graffiti in the early 70's. In 1971, 12-year old Al sees graffiti writing and meets renowned writers SNAKE-1, STICH-1, SPANKY 132, and later COCO 144. He admires the subculture and lifestyle and begins to practice tagging in notebooks and then on walls, using the name, "Bomb1". Al subsequently imports graffiti into the Lower East Side, his neighborhood, by influencing his peers to choose tag names and "hit" walls.[1]

SAMO©[edit | edit source]

In 1978, Al & Jean Michel Basquiat, while attending City As School (CAS) engaged in a conversation about society and religion and from the conversation Jean imagines and writes for the school paper about a make believe religion, called SAMO©... This coin is one of many of the "inside jokes" he develops and shares with Al since the two teenagers meet and become tight. Al and Jean discuss and amuse themselves thoroughly with an inventive public promotional campaign for SAMO©... They begin with humorous, illustrated testimonial leaflet handouts passed out on the streets, then turn quickly to graffiti as a mode of advertising their ideas throughout that spring and summer. Their anonymous SAMO©... graffiti is placed so heavily and prominently throughout lower Manhattan that it begins to garner significant, memorable public interest and attention. In June, Al graduates, and Jean pies the principal at the ceremony, never to return to school. Jean and Al respond to Stephen Saban's (SoHo Weekly News) inquiries as to who authored SAMO©... by sending him letters. In Decemeber, the pair agree to a published interview instead with the Village Voice. Despite Al's strong reluctance, the end their previous anonymity. This, among other petty personal disagreements surrounding Jean's volatile behavior, concludes their collaboration on the SAMO©... graffiti.[2]

Music[edit | edit source]

After SAMO© was finished, Al moves on in life. He maintains a more distant friendship with Jean, turning his attention to his marriage and an increasingly debaucherous lifestyle as a percussionist in New York's rich music scene of the time.[3] Al Diaz writes of his time spent in the 1980's NY music scene, "I kind of had a pretty good sense of rhythm so I pursued percussion instruments. Congas, timbales, talking drum, berimbau, wood blocks, home made xylophones and home made vibraphones. I really went head deep into it. I made a lot of my own instruments. I spent a good 4-5 years doing just music. I played & recorded with some very cool bands during that period. KONK, Liquid Liquid, Dog Eat Dog, Elliot Sharp (ISM) Ivan Julian (of Richard Hell & the Voidoids)  & Theoretical Girls. I also played the percussion on the iconic hip hop record that JMB produced for Ramellzee & K-Rob, BEAT BOP.

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  1. AL., DIAZ, (2018). SAMO(C)...SINCE 1978 : samo(c)...writings. [S.l.]: IRIE BOOKS. p. 201. ISBN 1515417190. OCLC 1057631386.
  2. AL., DIAZ, (2018). SAMO(C)...SINCE 1978 : samo(c)...writings. [S.l.]: IRIE BOOKS. pp. 202–203. ISBN 1515417190. OCLC 1057631386.
  3. AL., DIAZ, (2018). SAMO(C)...SINCE 1978 : samo(c)...writings. [S.l.]: IRIE BOOKS. p. 205. ISBN 1515417190. OCLC 1057631386.

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