Graffiti Legends: Faces Behind Tags


Cuba - Baltimore circa 1985

The Pioneers of Graffiti: Yesterday and Today

In the eyes of the law, they were simply vandals, their nicknames writ large and garish across train cars, on lampposts, over tantalizingly bare walls. But in the past few years, as the form has morphed into the increasingly popular style known as street art (think Banksy and Shepard Fairey), the original graffiti writers — some of them deep into their 40s and looking more like your cool uncle than the scrappy city kids they once were — are coming into the spotlight as respected forefathers. Many of them make appearances in the April 2011 book The History of American Graffiti by Roger Gastman, who also recently curated a wildly successful, three-and-a-half-month exhibit, Art in the Streets, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Coinciding with the book and the museum show, editor-at-large Jeff Vespa — who spent some of his own youth tagging up Baltimore (see last slide) — caught up with “TAKI 183,” “Risk,” “Cuba,” “Mike 171,” and other graffiti pioneers. In this gallery, presents rare images of their tags from the ’70s and ’80s, plus Vespa’s new portraits of the artists today. Pictured: work by Cuba, who, Gastman says, brought a New York City-style of writing to San Francisco in the early 1980s. Check out the full gallery on – Fast Food through the Lens of Still Life Photographers

McDonald's Angus Third Pounder

Here is an excerpt from an article published on about my burger series of photographs.

By Megan Fizell

Published on November 12, 2010

It is within the context established through Schlosser, the nostalgic tones of the 1950′s visual aesthetic in theBurger Series (Figure 4) by Jeff Vespa, can be understood. Vespa visited the fast food joints around Los Angeles in order to recreate the out-dated stock images found on laminated menus in the diners across America. Hamburgers were only purchased from restaurants where the consumer was required to order at the counter, brought back to Vespa’s studio and styled to present all of the ingredients in the sandwich to the viewer. The images were shot with a Polaroid camera, one photograph of each burger, each an original artwork. The idea of originality is in direct contrast to the subject of Vespa’s work. The fast food restaurants from which the hamburgers were sourced standardized every aspect of production — from the diameter of the patty, to the exact amount of ketchup and mustard. This enabled the company to manufacture and assemble — not typical verbs associated with food production– the same product in every restaurant. By using the Polaroid camera, Vespa references the Pop art movement because “the image is instantly recognizable and when you see so many in repetition it reminds you of Warhol.” For the viewer, the vintage medium presents the appetizing hamburger so that it is easy to visually consume and recalls faded childhood photographs, highlighting our latent juvenile desires.

Read the whole article on here. – – Fast Food through the Lens of Still Life Photographers

NYTimes – 10 New Hot Spots if Summer Needs Sizzle

Check it out, the New York Times just named the gallery I just opened with Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman one of the hot spots this summer in NY.


6. Art Zones

With its artist-run apartment galleries and hang-out vibe, the Bushwick section of Brooklyn is the coolest, that is, the most un-Chelsea, art neighborhood in the city. But throw in “new” as a qualifier, as in new this summer, and the nod could go (yet again) to SoHo.

There, Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman — directors of Deitch Projects before Jeffrey Deitch closed up shop and left for Los Angeles — opened a gallery of their own last Saturday, one with multiplex potential (cafe, bookstore, dating service). It’s called the Hole and it’s on Greene Street. Ms. Grayson was the force behind the Deitch pop-club-kid aesthetic, which became way too cute too fast, but did briefly generate a quite intense two-block scene.

If the Hole’s season lineup feels leftover Deitchian, the inaugural group show (through Aug. 14) has splashes of anarchy and Ms. Grayson and Ms. Coleman should go with that. But it’s not SoHo’s sole attraction. Artists Space and the Drawing Center both have newish curatorial blood. Far, far to the west, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is now bigger by half. And Maccarone nearby stays pugnaciously unpredictable.

The Hole, 104 Greene Street (Prince Street), (212) 226-3000, — HOLLAND COTTER

See the full article here: – Deitch Alums Step Into Void

This is an article from the Wall Street Journal on the new gallery I am partnering in. If you are in NY come by and check it out.

Not Quite Open For Business at the Hole NYC

by Erica Orden

Later this month, an exhibition featuring the work of at least nine artists culled from the recently shuttered Deitch Projects, one of the most influential galleries of the last two decades, will open on Greene Street in SoHo. Curated by two former Deitch Projects directors in consultation with the gallery’s former executive director, the show will doubtless draw the proto-Deitch Projects crowd: young, culturally savvy, aggressively hip.

The Deitch Projects alumnus conspicuously absent from the group? Jeffrey Deitch.

When Mr. Deitch closed his gallery on June 1 to begin a new job as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, his departure was widely considered to leave a hole in the fabric of New York’s contemporary art scene. Following its inception in 1996, the Deitch gallery arranged exhibitions, parties, parades and other events with some of the most popular and controversial art-world figures in recent memory, such as Vanessa Beecroft, Dash Snow, Kehinde Wiley and Shepard Fairey. On the night of its final opening, hundreds spilled out from the exhibition space, flooding the surrounding streets for nearly four hours.

Now, several longtime members of Mr. Deitch’s staff are attempting to fill the void he left with the Hole, a new gallery to be announced Thursday by former directors Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman. Working with many former Deitch artists like Kembra Pfahler and Evan Gruzis, and with help from former executive director Suzanne Geiss, the new gallery will inhabit approximately 2,000 square feet of pristine ground-floor space at 104 Greene St.

The inaugural group show, “Not Quite Open for Business,” opens June 26. In coming months, the Hole will feature a solo show by artist Mat Brinkman and an installation by Kenny Scharf and the artist collective Dearraindrop. A small back-room shop (to be named Holey Books) will stock art books and rare graffiti tools. And Ms. Grayson and Ms. Coleman plan to introduce quirky side projects, like a dating service for artists (called Hole Lotta Love).

Read the rest of the article on

Yummy Burgers!

jeff vespa_burgers1

Yummy, the premiere international design and junk food magazine, loves burgers! They ran a 6-page article on Jeff Vespa’s burgers in issue #3. Check out more on their blog – Yummy blog.

Burgers Make Great Gifts!

Variety just published their annual holiday gift roundup and included my burger photos. You can see the printed version here or check out the web version at: Variety: The Stylephile

“Best in show” By Monica Corcoran, – Tues., Dec. 12, 2006
Show your appreciation with these gifts. You work in show business, kiddo. This season, show your nearest and dearest just how much you appreciate them. These gifts will surely get some applause.

For the size 0 stylist on a diet: Jeff Vespa one-of-a-kind 8×10 Polaroid of a Double-Double, matted and framed in white ($750;

Burgers in the New York Times

The New York Times Sunday Style Magazine published an article on artists who use food as their subject. They included my burger photos along with two other artists.

Published: November 5, 2006
These contemporary artists are becoming known for their fixations with mainstream foods, elevating certain culinary staples into modern-day icons.

As a co-founder of the celebrity-photography agency WireImage, Jeff Vespa has photographed hundreds of celebrities. Now he sidelines in burger portraiture, producing large-format Polaroids of this fast-food staple. “I only do Los Angeles burgers,” says Vespa, who goes on burger runs armed with Tupperware to preserve their shape. He feels it’s worth a few raised eyebrows: “People aren’t looking at the burgers they eat. They don’t sit there and consider the burger.” Go to Jeff Vespa’s Burger Photos

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