Exhibited New York, Stewart Neill Gallery, NY Graffiti Movement, 1982 New York, World Trade Centre, Art and American Graffiti New York Style, 1982
Sonic BAD (Boys are Down) first became exposed to tagging on trains whilst riding the New York subway between the homes of his newly separated parents in Queens and Brooklyn. It was 1970 and he was nine years old. He was instantly hooked and eagerly watched the early 'writings' styles emerge and develop. It wasn't long before he started adding his own name to subway cars before moving on to bigger and bolder works:
"After a few years of tagging, piecing, practicing in sketch books and making my way through the graffiti community. I learned the ins and outs and built up the courage one needs to do more than just tags and pieces on trains. So I started to do whole cars and top to bottoms. Early on, I was doing these by myself. It was a dangerous thing to go down into the subway tunnels and I found that I was faster than others so it was just easier and safer for me to go in get the job done and get out and have only myself to worry about. In 1979 Dondi, Rammellzee and I painted a IRT train car at New Lots train yard, Brooklyn. When the train car was completed, I told everyone to pose for a photo, all of a sudden the lights went on inside the train, the doors opened, and we all had to run away from a squad of policemen! We got away and Yes! I got the shot. I still have that picture to this day. But that's how it was to paint on trains, never a dull moment."
Sonic's painted trains have appeared in Style Wars the influential 1983 documentary on Hip Hop. They are also reproduced in numerous books including George Nelson's Fresh, Hip Hop, Don't Stop, Martha Cooper's Hip Hop Files: Photographs 1979-1984, and the graffiti bible Subway Art by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper. In an interview with Stress Magazine in 1998 Chalfant acknowledges the artists' importance, citing Sonic's Naked Lady car (illustrated on page 88 of Subway Art) as one of his favourite pieces.
Although a prolific graffiti artist Sonic's primary focus was painting trains, and consequently few works were ever put on canvas. The present work and the preceding lot therefore offer a rare opportunity to acquire historically important pieces by a graffiti maestro.