The Legacy of a Pioneering Subway Artist Lives On in a Final Art Book

Two years after the death of the legendary hip-hop artist and pioneer of second-stage hip-hop, a new book has been released featuring a series of drawings and poems he drew from his hospital bed in his final days. This project embodies PHASE 2’s lifelong legacy of pushing the boundaries of visual expression, even under the toughest conditions.

‘He was sitting there in the [Grand] Aisle (149) Street in the clerk’s seat with this really cool outfit Aviation High or Excellent,” recalls BLADE, a famous subway artist who, like countless aerosol writers, was influenced by the work of PHASE 2 in the early 1970s. “He was actually drawing patterns for writers in their black books. drawn by me, I put that exact piece on the train.”

A ‘cool’ mural painted by PHASE 2 in 1995, showing his intricate transformation of letters into glyphs (Image via PHASE 2)

Originating in a Forest House housing project in the South Bronx, PHASE 2 will emerge as an innovator in New York’s burgeoning subway art movement, creating elaborate murals that would shape the evolution of both the spray can and art form. PHASE 2 wrote in the 1980s report on his artistic progress: “I, for example, during and after my stay in the public school system, always saw deficiencies in writing the alphabet.” 10 years ago [I] I felt the urgency to change its “terms” to my liking.” This penchant for accentuating the alphabet led him to develop his famous puffy “bubble” letters, as well as overlapping arrows, cloud backgrounds, lettering in the shape of facial features, deliberate paint drops, heart designs, and other patterns and embellishments that Continue to serve as the basis for aerosol art worldwide.

In this posthumous book, titled PRAFODIVI: The Final Writings of Phase 2And Many of his early innovations can be seen redirected into mystical drawings, with sharp points of arrows, wrinkled letters, and shadows of faces in various shapes. There are also several original symbols crafted by PHASE 2 in the book, reminiscent of Chinese phonetics, but enhanced with bubble diagrams.

This Phase 2 steel sculpture, titled “Letter A Misconceptions,” was on display at the Jacob Javits Center for more than 20 years before officials there suddenly destroyed it in 2013 (photo featured in Figure 4 at 13-CIV-7902 (CM) Lonny Marrow and Douglas Abdell vs New York Convention Center).

Alphabet abstraction is something PHASE 2 has always been exploring outside of trains and walls; He discusses this in many of the poems accompanying his drawings. Beginning with his pioneering gallery exhibitions in New York and Chicago in the mid-1970s, he began applying his “masterpieces” to canvas using spray paint and marker pen. By the 1980s, he was displaying his deconstruction of lettering on panels with sharp, mechanical, interlocking symbols. He explained in a 1984 interview with Related magazine that his work is “not about writing letters but about correcting letters,” suggesting that his goal was to go beyond the literary function of the alphabet to reconstructing an “artistic symbol” of its structure into new and captivating signs and motifs.

Around the same time, PHASE 2 produced the first-ever aerosol-style letter figurine, which has been dubbed “The Letter A Misconceptions.” The piece was shown in 3D at the Jacob Javits Center in New York for more than two decades, until the spring of 2013, officials there dumped the work without any warning or explanation. This episode, which prompted him to file a lawsuit under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), was one of many scandalous experiences he had with the gallery world, leaving PHASE 2 in contempt for those who distorted the art form he so passionately defended. Nevertheless, he continued to envision new and innovative paintings and sculptures throughout his career, delving into other genres, such as collages, vinyl figures, clothing, and graphic design.

Given the parallel influence of PHASE 2 on popular music, fashion, dance, design, and historical understanding – there’s not enough space to discuss all of these achievements here – he was undoubtedly one of the most recognizable figures in modern urban culture. In fact, my interaction with him was initially geared around dance, not art, because PHASE 2 was an early pioneer in breaking the Bronx. Our shared interest in dance led to an ongoing correspondence, as he selflessly shared his encyclopedic knowledge of the form’s evolution in our conversations.

One of the many drawings he drafted stage 2 of his hospital bed in his final days, now appears in the book Bravodev (Photo courtesy of Saddler “Meadows” Abrahamian).

In the fall of 2019, he called me unexpectedly, asking if I could help transcribe and arrange this jumble of drawings and writings into a book. Although I knew he was in the hospital at the time, little did I know he was battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which had weakened his more dominant right hand and quickly took over his body. Even though he was tied to a hospital bed and had only a black pen and white paper at his disposal, he used his left hand to draw. All From these final works I learned only after his death.

The 60-page contents of the book are available at www.PRAFODIVI.com, and are close to the original drawings, writing, and instructions for PHASE 2. The title and website name, PRAFODIVI, is the pseudonym he used to sign all of these works – whose meaning remains unclear. . “A higher power kept me going,” Phase 2 told me in one of our discussions about the book. Looking back, this speaks volumes about the remarkable resilience and creativity he showed up until his last days.

One of the many drawings and poems that Phase 2 wrote from his hospital bed in his final days, has now appeared in the book Bravodev (Photo courtesy of Saddler “Meadows” Abrahamian).
One of the many drawings and poems that Phase 2 wrote from his hospital bed in his final days, has now appeared in the book Bravodev (Photo courtesy of Saddler “Meadows” Abrahamian).
One of the many drawings and poems that Phase 2 wrote from his hospital bed in his final days, has now appeared in the book Bravodev (Photo courtesy of Saddler “Meadows” Abrahamian).
One of the many drawings and poems that Phase 2 wrote from his hospital bed in his final days, has now appeared in the book Bravodev (Photo courtesy of Saddler “Meadows” Abrahamian).
One of the many drawings and poems that Phase 2 wrote from his hospital bed in his final days, has now appeared in the book Bravodev (Photo courtesy of Saddler “Meadows” Abrahamian).

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