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Cream of wheat paste: Cost and Revs.

I remember the days when a subway train illegally painted by Lee Quinones Lee Quinones, b. 1960 in Ponce, Puerto Rico and raised in New York is one of the most important graffiti artists. Some of his paintings belong in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art.  would roll into a station and the people on the platform would spontaneously applaud. I remember artists like Lee, Zephyr Zephyr or Zephyrus: see Eos. , Futura 2000, Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, SAMO SAMO Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (US National Park Service)
SAMO Simulated Ab-initio Molecular Orbital
 |C~ (aka Jean-Michel Basquiat Jean-Michel Basquiat (IPA: [ʒɑ̃ miˈʃɛl basˈkja(t)]) (December 22 1960, Brooklyn - August 12, 1988, New York, New York) was an American artist. ), and Keith Haring Keith Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was a pre-eminent artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York street culture of the 1980s.

He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania but grew up in Kutztown and was interested in art from an early age.
 putting art out on the street for free. But graffiti isn't what it used to be. Style is all but gone, and thi outlaw practice, once a field of ambition, daring, rebellion, and improvisation has largely reverted to a form of unconscious egoism egoism (ē`gōĭzəm), in ethics, the doctrine that the ends and motives of human conduct are, or should be, the good of the individual agent. It is opposed to altruism, which holds the criterion of morality to be the welfare of others.  and conformist con·form·ist  
A person who uncritically or habitually conforms to the customs, rules, or styles of a group.

Marked by conformity or convention:

There are still a few sparks of unauthorized public art out there, though.

I think I might have noticed Cost and Revs at the beginning of their careers--I remember seeing some of those conventioneer con·ven·tion·eer  
One who attends a convention.

Noun 1. conventioneer - someone who attends a convention
attendee, meeter, attendant, attender - a person who is present and participates in a meeting; "he was a regular
 stickers that say "Hello My Name Is around town with their tags marketed on. But I didn't really latch on to them. really noticed them a year or so ago when I started seeing their 8 1/2-by-11-inch wheatpaste posters all over New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
. And I mean all over. Most visible was their use of the backs of "walk/don't walk" signs--it seemed like they'd hit just about every intersection in Manhattan. Each poster had the name COST or the name REVS and a qualifying word or slogan: Specimen REVS. COST was here. Machine REVS. COST is dead. Turkish REVS. COST fucked Madonna. That one made me laugh out loud when I first saw it.

COST and REVS also do larger works, which they call "rollers," because they mak them with paint rollers on walls. One of them is visible in a Donna Karan Donna Karan is the fashion designer and the creator of the DKNY (Donna Karan New York) clothing label. She was born Donna Ivy Faske on October 9, 1948 in Forest Hills, New York.  DKNY DKNY Donna Karan New York  ad that shows a New York landscape; COST and REVS are a part of the landscape. They're getting more elaborate these days. They've hit SoHo walls with guerilla canvases. They're doing authorized murals. But they're still taking their message to the street with determination, sincerity, wit, and guts.

Cost and Revs are a couple of New York kids. White Kids. New York etched in their accents. Being in their mid 20s, they're getting a little old to be kids, but they're kids as long as they keep doing what they're doing. What they're doing is getting up everywhere, making their mark, making a name for themselves in the landscape. It's unauthorized nonprofit public art. It's not made for museums or foundations or galleries. It's not made for speculative investors or dealers or critics or collectors. It's made for an audience of their peers.

One day I noticed a poster with a phone number on it: COST (212) 592-4133. I called the number and couldn't believe what I heard--the speaker wasn't Cost or Revs, it was an old lady. You could tell from her voice that she's cashing a social security check. If you can believe Cost and Revs, she's in her 90s, and she goes by the tag Graff's Grandmother. As in Graffiti. She gave an eloquent oration on how her boys Cost and Revs were holding up the standards of graffiti in an age of decline. A few months later I caught up with her again. She explained that she had been in the joint, where she was "runnin' shit," and she recounted, in her ancient tremolo tremolo (trem´lō),
n an irregular and exaggerated speech pattern that may be the symptom of an emotional disturbance or of various
, how she had been in the same prison as Mike Tyson Noun 1. Mike Tyson - United States prizefighter who was world heavyweight champion (born in 1966)
Michael Gerald Tyson, Tyson
 and how she had explained to the champion that he needed some spiritual values in his life and how that had led to his conversion to Islam.

Graff's Grandma hasn't been on the hot line in recent months, Cost and Revs hav been issuing their own funky but grandiose manifestos, but I just checked in with the line now and there she was: I am the only Grandma of Graff. I am the wisdom, the engine, the teacher behind the Cost and Revs machine. I built these boys and I built them to last. As you can hear I am no joker and neither are they. They are merely henchmen to me and purely servants to New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City

City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S.
. They are art outsiders looking in on life and watching and learning from other people's stupidity. They are the sugar in your coffee, the sauce in your spaghetti, the salt in your stew. They are everything you've ever wanted but haven't realized yet, so take it from me, kiddies, the Grandma of Graff says Cost and Revs are the move. Or as Cost and Revs say, "Move over." Either one. Both are true.

I talked to Cost and Revs recently. Cost talks more, but when Revs gets revved up he is declarative de·clar·a·tive  
1. Serving to declare or state.

2. Of, relating to, or being an element or construction used to make a statement: a declarative sentence.

 and passionate about what he does.

COST: We met in '85, then went our separate ways. About a year and a half ago w were doing things that were similar so we started hanging out again and combine the mission. I think we brought wheat-pasting to a different level.

I was intrigued by graffiti since I was eight or nine years old. I'd read the walls and I'd wonder how it got there and want to do it. When I started to get some time to myself I found myself buying markers and trying to write on the walls, on dumpsters, on doorways with my friends. It built from there. I never stopped.

I respected a lot of graffiti writers. When I was young I was really impressed by Zephyr.

REVS: I've always liked Lee's stuff. He put his heart and soul on the wall, and not a lot of guys do that. I really respect that a lot.

GLENN O'BRIEN: Who is the Grandma of Graff?

REVS: A wise old lady who gives us direction. She's an old-timer. She goes back to when Kilroy was around.

COST: She guides us. She instructs at times on what to do and how to do it. She's got the wisdom.

GO'B: What's your relationship to graffiti?

COST: Some people say it's an eyesore eye·sore  
Something, such as a distressed building, that is unpleasant or offensive to view.


something very ugly

Noun 1.
. I think it's a spice, a treat. It livens things up. I'm trying to let people know that I'm here during this time period. Let it be remembered or forgotten, that's up to the people.

GO'B: How many posters have you done?

COST: Somewhere between 75 and 100. Some we put up 1,000 of, some 500, some 50. Graffiti's changed in the '90s; nowadays writing your name on walls, just putting it up everywhere, is the same old same old. Scrawl on the streets, writ on the trains then it gets cleaned the next day, talk a lot of garbage--I'm too old for that now. You've got to try something different.

A lot of young writers are looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 trouble; we're not trying to hurt anybody, we're trying to do something positive. We're trying to change philosophies a bit. Change everyday life. We want to open people's eyes up when they walk outside their house, let them see something a little different. There's not much left for me to do in the graffiti world, I want to stay as far away from that world as possible. Stay away from the in graffiti-crowd. I just want to be a lone wolf Lone Wolf, d. 1879, Kiowa Chief. He led some Kiowas on raids in 1874 after his son had been killed by whites, but he was defeated and with a number of followers was deported to Florida, where he remained in military confinement for three years; he died one year after .

GO'B: What were your favorite posters?

REVS: Turkish REVS has no meaning whatsoever. Machine REVS: I'm a hard worker, work like a machine. Specimen REVS: I'm just a specimen of a larger whole. It's kind of abstract unless you know me.

GO'B: What kind of messages do you get on the hot line?

REVS: Some people have threatened our lives. Some people tell us, Keep going. They're waitin' on our next move. They're rootin' for us.

COST: A lot of graffiti writers call. Some have beefs to settle with us: we try not to go over people, but sometimes someone will say, You went over me here. O they don't like what we're doing. We're trying to change graffiti, which is all about using spray paint. I don't think it's all about spray paint. I think you can use other mediums.

REVS: Others say they love what we're doing and we've inspired them. We get old people saying we're ruining the city. We get marriage proposals.

COST: Some people think Grandma is the Grandmother of Grass instead of Graff. They think she's a weed lady. We get a lot of hot girls rappin' to Revs.

REVS: Right now we have some violent information. Words of wisdom for the everyday public. Opinions on things. We like to shake up the system, have high impact.

COST: We're saying we're not graffiti guys anymore. What we do has a graffiti attitude because we're promoting our names, but we're on the art tip. At this point we might be the most outlaw art in the city. Not too many people are doin street art and basically street art is illegal.

GO'B: Postering is an old New York tradition. For a while the police went after clubs featuring bands that did postering.

COST: We took it to the extreme. People think we're vandals; that's not what we are. We want to put things up that will be appreciated by people. We've painted a few murals and we're doing more--we did one on Lafayette Street called Mount Crushmore. It's Warhol, Keith Haring, and me and Revs on a mountain.

REVS: We also did King of the Pigs, with Rodney King Rodney Glen King (born April 9, 1965 in Fort Worth, Texas) is an African-American taxicab driver who was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers (Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Sargent Stacey Koon) after being chased for speeding. , on Elizabeth Street Elizabeth Street can refer to:
  • Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Australia
  • Elizabeth Street, Sydney, Australia
  • Elizabeth Street, Hobart, Australia
 and Houston. We're basically insulting everybody.

COST: The police department for their stupidity and Rodney King for his stupidity. He's no great guy either.

REVS: We're not insulting the good cops, just the ones who abuse their job. Mos people want to take one side or the other, but to us both sides are wrong. It may be a little harsh but it's got to be said.

COST: Today all you see is "Knowledge is Power" and "Safe Sex." That's the basi message from everybody. I'm not saying that's bad, but we're coming from a little different angle.

REVS: We think art should be dangerous. Everybody's into safe art, doing safe things in their studio. We're bringing danger back into it. It's got to be on the edge, where it's not allowed.

COST: We live on the edge and that's what That's What is one of the more idiosyncratic releases by solo steel-string guitar artist Leo Kottke. It is distinctive in it's jazzy nature and "talking" songs ("Buzzby" and "Husbandry").  makes it good.

REVS: The art world is too sissyish sis·sy  
n. pl. sis·sies
1. A boy or man regarded as effeminate.

2. A person regarded as timid or cowardly.

3. Informal Sister.
 for us. There's no raw quality.

COST: The galleries are too quiet. You sip a little champagne.

REVS: lt's got to be real crude. Crude.

COST: Rude and shit. Noisier.

REVS: Graffiti writers do have a message. It's just that nobody knows what it is. It's not a strict statement, it's a way of life.

COST: It's revolt.

REVS: It's considered mindless vandalism by most people but there's really a lo to be said about a guy who scribbles his name on the wall. Why would a guy risk being hurt to do that?

GO'B: It's territorial. It's leaving your mark.

REVS: It's to say, This is what I produced while I was alive.

COST: We don't even have a choice in the matter, we have to do this stuff. It's not like we planned out a career. It's about putting our lives on the wall and letting people decipher it from there. I always say, We're going all the way to the top with it. Or all the way to the bottom. And either one is fine. I don't want no middle ground--being an average Joe. Put me on the top of the pile or the bottom of the pile. Either is fine, just no mediocrity.

REVS: Some people use the front door. Some people use the back door. We're crashing through Crashing Through is a box set with 7 discs containing every studio album, oddities and rare tracks by the indie rock band, Beat Happening. It was released through K Records on May 7, 2002 but is now out of print.  the side of the house. We're gonna level it. Nobody's going to deny us. It sounds like a megalomaniacal meg·a·lo·ma·ni·a  
1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.

2. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.
 bad attitude, and maybe it is. But that's okay.

COST: We don't think we're big shots. I consider myself the little guy out ther trying to claim my piece. But we're gonna get what we're shootin' for because we're not gonna stop. There's just so long people can ignore you in this world.

Glenn O'Brien, a former stand-up stand·up or stand-up  
1. Standing erect; upright: a standup collar.

2. Taken, done, or used while standing: a standup supper; a standup bar.
 comedian, is a contributing editor of Allure and creative director of advertising at Barney's, New York.
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Title Annotation:graffiti artists
Author:O'Brien, Glenn
Publication:Artforum International
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 1, 1994
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