Al Diaz: Not the Same Old SAMO© [VIDEO]
Albert "Al" Diaz is a NYC graffiti and text artist - first and foremost. It is what he wants to remembered as. That may be next to impossible for him, since he was also one half of the creation and collaboration of SAMO©, with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, his childhood friend.
SAMO© was the false religion they started together in the mid 70's, graffiti poetry on city & subway walls, the stoned conversation between two teenage artists that evolved into public social commentary. A project that inevitably we all would learn about in Art History courses. As we stand today in the middle of another great art movement; graffiti, born during that period has influenced more refined art studies, and they collide beautifully in multiple forms.
While the world moved past the death of Basquiat in 1988, NYC changed again. Al Diaz also moved forward with his life; playing music and a career as a carpenter. Around 2010, Al agreed to work on the documentary The Radiant Child, directed by Tamra Davis. He realized then for the first time, he had a voice to contribute to that period in art history, in the history he was an enormous part of. He stayed hidden for a long time; strung out, fallen on hard times, but was now in a positive place of reflection.
After decades of darkness, it was time to re-emerge. Al began playing with the WET PAINT signs and MTA service alert notices. He cut them up, collaging the letters and symbols into a limited vocabulary of phrases and statements. These anagrams breathed new life into Al's artistic career. He was ready to contribute to a new generation of street art. Then this past November, a few hours after the Trump election announcement, Al had heard enough.
"The time has come! I'm bringing back SAMO©" he claimed, took a train ride & wrote on the tiled walls in that infamous all-caps script: "SAMO© FOR ALL BAD HOMBRES AND NASTY WOMEN"
And with that, Al Diaz made his return to the city streets, after over 30 years. His first illicit graffito in a long time, and now there have been over 100 in this era of Trump. He also began collaborating with street artist Jilly Ballistic, by contributing his text art to her vintage images. She works mainly in the subway too, and their styles blend perfectly for the topic they are tackling.
Al recently collaborated with StreetArtDirect to bring a series of Limited Edition prints and SAMO© ephemera produced by House of Roulx. He has upcoming shows in NYC later this month at RedbirdNYC, and in September - so stay tuned! The tool of the Millennial, Instagram is a form of communication Al is enjoying in this new age. Give him a follow & keep an eye out for his graffitos coming to a subway near you!
I want to thank Al for inviting Sold Magazine to his studio, participating in the video (by Keith Aronowitz), and talking to us candidly about his life journey. I know I speak for the team when I say it was a pleasure, and also a lot of fun.