Although graffiti artists still regularly hit up trains around the city, it's pretty rare to actually catch one of those cars in the wild. Which is one of the reasons the ambitious eight-car graffiti job below, which was spotted in Bushwick over the weekend, is all the more remarkable.
"It's very unusual to see a train leave the yards with a top-to-bottom, end-to-end burner," said Gothamist's resident graffiti aficionado Jake Dobkin. "Normally they clean them before they leave, so the only shots you see are the ones the German tourists take themselves after they bomb the train, but here the train appears to have left the yard, so that's cool."
This was a tribute to two graffiti legends who both died in recent weeks. One was Matthew “ZEXOR” Rodriguez, who passed away last Thursday in NYC. The Source writes that Rodriguez, who was in his 20s, was the son of Brooklyn graffiti legend ASP WTO, and carried on his legacy; Bowery Boogie added that Rodriguez had just returned from Art Basel when he died from complications due to sleep apnea.
Tributes have been appearing throughout the city in the days since his death, many of which you can see here.
The other graffiti artist was PHASE2, a.k.a. Bronx native Lonny Woods. HipHopDX reports that he had been fighting Lou Gehrig's disease in hospital since August; he died last week at the age of 64. Woods was also a hip-hop artist, designed skateboard decks and vinyl covers, and launched graffiti and street art publication IGTIMES in the mid '80s. He was considered a graffiti pioneer, and was also an early member of United Graffiti Artists (UGA), a collective of train artists credited with mounting the first gallery show of "graffiti art," a term which Art Forum said Woods rejected "for devaluing and criminalizing his work and that of his peers." Woods instead called his work "Funky Nous Deco."
"PHASE2 was not only a graffiti pioneer, but also a foundational pillar," said Animal New York founder Bucky Turco. "A true style master, he's the writer who gave it the bubble letter and singlehandedly evolved the art movement from early on." Turco also had a long and fascinating thread on Twitter on Woods which you can check out below. "When many writers were still practicing primitive, straight letter tags, PHASE was in the train yards pioneering bubble letters. He was also one of the first to use arrows. This man brought style to the movement," he wrote.
You can also check out this interview with Woods.
According to internal MTA reports, there have been approximately 245 "major graffiti hits" on trains through November 2019, which means we are on pace for a much lower amount from 2018, where there were over 750 such incidents. The City reported that NYC Transit has spent $442,000 to scrub graffiti this year; in 2018 that figure was $610,956.