Lance De Los Reyes, the prolific NYC-based graffiti artist known as RAMBO, has died. He was 44.
De Los Reyes was known for his bubble lettering street art, his signature upside-down crowns (an homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat), as well as for climbing to the top of billboards on the BQE where he scrawled poetic phrases onto unused (or semi-used) backgrounds. His mysterious, sometimes cryptic text—which included lines like, “MM BROTHERS AND SISTERS DUE THE IMPOSSIBLE / MASTER YOUR HEART,” "JULIAN SCHNABEL / KNOW GODS JUST WORK" and "BLESS YOURSELF THE LIGHT BEARERS ARE BEING REBORN"—could also be found on the sides of trucks, on the walls of underpasses and street courts, and other surfaces of the city.
"RAMBO was a very enthusiastic bomber with an unusual hand style," said Gothamist/WNYC's resident graffiti expert Jake Dobkin. "He really dominated northern Brooklyn and downtown over the last fifteen years. I particularly liked his billboard rollers along the BQE and his bubble letter fill-ins, and his poetry, while sometimes hard to understand, was occasionally quite evocative. His death is a real loss for the New York graffiti scene."
De Los Reyes, who was born in Texas and studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, came to NYC after working with Shepard Fairey in the late '90s and early '00s.
In an interview with Vice in 2014—in which De Los Reyes treated RAMBO as a separate being from himself—he explained his feelings on the city: "Art is so important, especially in a place where you have so many beautiful hearts all in one city. I consider New York City the new Rome where all avant garde things are possible. It is the performer's job not only to master his own heart, but to do something that is beyond himself."
Fairey wrote a tribute to his "long-time friend and partner in crime" on his website, calling him "both feral and sweet." He writes that when they first came to NYC together, they “did street art night and day for three days...napped for two hours and then started bombing again...Lance was the most fun, fearless and spontaneous bombing partner ever...Lance had been making his best art ever over the last couple of years, and I was very happy that he seemed to be in a healthy groove. I guess it didn’t last.”
De Los Reyes' first solo exhibition, featuring much of his text-based work, was at The Hole in the Bowery in 2014, titled Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. In recent years, he had entered a more colorful, abstract phase of work, as seen in his latest Instagram posts.
Curator Destinee Ross-Sutton, who organized a show for De Los Reyes this summer at the Ross-Sutton Gallery called Past Present is Future, told The Art Newspaper that he was “a most remarkable being on a very clear mission, who didn’t make art for money and saw himself as a messenger trying to tell us something—to open our eyes.”
She added that he died on November 6th; no cause of death has been released yet. You can read a few more tributes below.