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Piece Out: A Tribute to the Origins of Graffiti

Piece Out: A Tribute to the Origins of Graffiti

Here at Mass Appeal, we never shy away from an opportunity to do something groundbreaking. So when we learned about a vintage 1950s subway car located out in Kingston, New York, we had to see if we could get some paint on it. Working with the good people at the Trolley Museum of New York, we brought out a group of legends to do their thing. Last weekend, we ventured north up the Hudson River to throw “Piece Out,” an event co-hosted by Mass Appeal and Red Bull Studios New York.

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All photos by Alexander Richter

We all know the heyday of graffiti on MTA subways has long been over. “Piece Out” was an opportunity to go back to the essence of graffiti, a chance to legally paint on metal canvas in broad daylight with an audience watching. It was an extraordinary moment in graffiti history, a celebration of an art form that was largely disregarded as useless vandalism in its earlier years.

Our first day in Kingston was a private affair. On one side of the train was the legendary SP.One, throwing up his solo piece that spanned the length of the car. Meanwhile, KR.One, Chino, Reas and Cro RIS manned the flipside of the train, throwing up individual burners. Reas hooked up a ’70s style character so authentic that the Jackson Five would approve.

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Day two was open to the public, giving them the opportunity to check out artists like Wane COD, Mr. Ewok One, KEO XMEN/TC5/FC and Sye TC5 get down. The artists painted while DJ Buffalo spun Black Sheep and Grand Puba in the nearby Historic Cornell Building, creating a feeling of a classic New York block party.

The event was exceptionally surreal for Mr. Ewok One, a native of Kingston. He was forced to relocate to New York City after being singled out by the local police as a teenager for “handiwork.” “It’s bizarre for me to be painting out here in the day time, not under pressure, considering the history I’ve had here,” he said. “There wasn’t really an outlet for me to practice my craft other than just illegally, which is an unfortunate situation.” The event was an opportunity for Mr. Ewok One to showcase the modern iteration of his work to a hometown crowd, which included fellow upstate New Yorker and Gym Class Heroes front man Travie McCoy. The headline should read “Local Boy Makes Good.”

There was a scene of nostalgia as legendary artists were able to return to their roots, painting on a train similar to the ones they used to paint back in the day. There was also a shared bond that became quickly apparent, as the graffiti artists waxed poetic about trains in the yard with board members of the Trolley Museum. “Piece Out” was a chance to bridge the gap between two groups, whose love for trains was the same.

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Special thanks to the Historic Cornell Building and the Trolley Museum of New York for letting us throw the event. Without their help, this entire event could not have occurred. Also shout out to Alexander Richter, who provided us with dope stills of the event.

Be on the look out for much more coming from Write of Passage in the near future, exploring the dynamics of graffiti and its impact as an art form on global culture.