‘All Black Everything’ showcases generations of African American graffiti artists
“Untitled,” 2019, by pioneering graffiti artist Bama, a Bronx, N.Y. native, is on view at the Museum of Graffiti’s “All Black Everything,” exhibit through Sept. 4. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Sometimes you just run out of luck.
It wasn’t the first time that graffiti artist and pioneer Richard “Bama” Admiral had been accused of spray-painting trains, but it was the third time that did it.
“The first two times I was arrested I was completely innocent,” says Admiral.
At the time his parents were in Las Vegas on their second honeymoon and his father, in particular, wasn’t in the mood for any shenanigans.
“So (Dad) just said, ‘Wait ’til I get back,’ because he was not going to give up his vacation,” says Admiral, who hails from the “Boogie Down” Bronx.
“. . .I had to sit there for a week till they came back because there was nobody to get me out. That taught me a great deal. And I was guilty,” he admits. “I couldn’t get around that. I was completely guilty.”
Despite this, Admiral’s arrest didn’t exactly end his career. It just took a slightly different turn.
From then on he decided to embrace a different tactic — one that significantly reduced his chances of getting caught.
“I became a soloist.”
His father, of course, still wasn’t enamored with his artistic pursuits.
And if you ask East New York-born and raised graffiti artist Doc TC5, he could definitely relate. His mother wasn’t much of a fan either.
“It was like an embarrassment to her that I was a vandal,” says TC5. “She never saw that it could go somewhere.”
But eventually, it did.
Ironically, the now much sought-after artist, said that it was his own mom who inspired the name for which he is now known.
“Before graffiti, I was into music,” explains TC5. “I was into DJing very early in my life. It just became a thing where, you know, my mother just associated anything with me, as being music related.
“One day she asked me, ‘What are you gonna be when you get older’ And I said, ‘Well, I’d like to work with something in the medical field.’ She said, ‘What do you want to be a disco doctor?’ And it stuck.”
In all, it’s clear to both casual observers and graffiti fans alike, that both artists have paid their dues.
Whether it is getting arrested, dealing with detainment or getting ostracized from society and family members, it was all for the love of art; specifically their love of graffiti. The price they paid may have been well worth it because now their legendary pieces are unilaterally regarded as part of the bedrock of this street-based art movement.
Their contributions are part of the Museum of Graffiti’s “All Black Everything: A Survey of African American Graffiti” exhibition on view in Wynwood through Monday, Sept. 4. Also included are some of the most historically influential multigenerational artists, including Bama, Blade, Delta2, Dondi White, Ewok, Kool Koor, Noc167, Skeme, Web One, and Wane One. Original graffiti paintings on canvas and works on paper spanning the past four decades.
Alan Ket, curator of the exhibition and co-founder of the museum, says that it is important to highlight their contributions, particularly for those who are new to the art form.
One of the museum’s primary missions is “to preserve graffiti’s history and celebrate its emergence in design, fashion, advertising, and galleries,” he said. The “All Black Everything,” event is just one more way of celebrating graffiti while paying proper homage to some of those who initiated it first, according to Ket.
“These are real people that have contributed for decades and deserve to be recognized and not necessarily overshadowed by whoever is popular or is trendy at the moment, or the Instagram favorites of the past few years,” says Ket. “It seems like only people from my generation and older know this. Everybody else doesn’t have the awareness of the Black contribution to graffiti and how significant and important it is.”
Ket says it is important that it is known that there are, and were, important African American artists that should be celebrated and acknowledged. As a graffiti artist himself, Ket wants to share what he has personally learned and experienced. He hopes that this history will ultimately shine through the exhibition.
“It isn’t just what’s happening today, but this is 50 years of history and 50 years of this sort of shared experience. And I want them to know the names. I want them to learn about these artists.”
He said that the exhibition with its long run through summer will offer plenty of time for people to visit the Museum of Graffiti.
“. . .To come in here, experience it and learn.”
WHAT: “All Black Everything: A Survey of African American Graffiti”
WHERE: Museum of Graffiti, 276 NW 26th St., Miami
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
COST: $16 plus fee and sales tax, general admission, $12 plus fee and sales tax, student/military/senior general admission, free general admission for children 13 and younger.
INFORMATION: (786) 580-4678 or museumofgraffiti.com