Blade is a true graffiti pioneer, painting over 5,000 pieces on New York’s subway between 1972 and 1984. Blade embodies everything that is classically associated with graffiti: illegally painting trains, whilst avoiding cops, guard dogs, oncoming trains and the third rail. The prize was recognition within a subculture that wider society often hated, long before it became fashionable and graffiti made any transition into galleries. Blade is credited with developing several classic graffiti styles, was exhibited in key early gallery shows and has remained active in the contemporary art World since; his work was recently included in the ‘Art In The Streets’ show at MOCA in LA and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
Check the Blade slideshow below…
I started writing graffiti in early 1972 with Hondo1, Fresco, Dr. Sex and Camaro 170. My name ‘Blade’ comes from the fact that I always carried my box cutter to work and to gang fights. I was only 15 in 1972 so I always wrote Blade!
Because I was doing graffiti from the beginning there were no graffiti influences – we learned as we went along. I painted my first character in November 1974 (Easel Man & Snowman). Back then the security in train yards was not so tough. I started writing on mail trucks with Chino1 in 1972, then the buses, then the outside of trains. I did the insides of trains later.
I got my paint from hardware stores and I racked up all over the city [racking means stealing paint]. In the beginning we would make sketches in school; I sketched until 1980 but many times we we’d go out to paint I would freestyle. My style evolved because I dream in color! My mind has always drifted through space (which you can see in my work).
When I would paint whole cars I would do 750-1000 a year. I would just cut loose and go for it! When we painted the big danger was bring hit by a train or falling off of a layup [where trains park on the elevated tracks – police wouldn’t climb up there] from 50 feet down to the street and get run over by a car or truck. But for us it was the only way to have any self-expression.
We’d hit the same spots maybe three or four times in a row then the spot would get hot so we’d paint somewhere else. In 1974 I remember we paint the ‘money car,’ which carried money through NY. They said no one could paint a piece on it. We did! In 1978 Comet and I both painted double whole cars – that was epic! The culture was competitive but there was no beef – our beef was never with other writers, we were all working against the system. If someone painted something great you’d want to go out and do better but there was no beef; there was a real sense of unity.
The Government had a program that closed schools in 1972 and that had a lot to do with how graf started. My crew became TCF, or The Crazy 5, with Death, Vamm, Crachee, Tull and Comet. Our biggest fear was the Vietnam War. Vamm, Crachee, Death, Tull 13 and myself were listening to Nixon on the radio invading ‘Nam when I was 17 (in 1974). Back then the US had a draft so if they called you then you had to go and fight. I missed the Vietnam draft by 23 days. I was born on January 23,1957. If you’re born up to December 31st 1956 you got your draft card. Those were scary times.
The golden age of graffiti was 1970-1975 because that was the start in NYC! At the start there were no masterpieces, only single hits [bombs] and tags. Masterpieces developed in the summer of 1972; graffiti just got bigger and bigger and now it exists around the whole world.
I painted over 5,000 train cars with Comet. From 1972-1982 I painted all these trains and I never went to jail. Nobody believes it but you can find out anything on the internet! My name is Steven David Ogburn; I was born on the 23rd January 1957 and I only went to jail for one day for racking up paint in 1974! I was chased by the police all the time but I was just so fast - police were also older back in the day!
In terms of styles, I created overlapping 3D letters in 1975 and Blockbuster Letters in 1977. If you see the Subway Art book (Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper), my best pieces are there, documented for all time!
In terms of painting today I would love to go to Italy! It’s my dream but no gallery has invited me yet. I stopped painting trains in 1984 because I was 30 and I had nothing left to prove. I was the King of NYC graffiti for 10 years and now the galleries want me in Europe.
My first show in Europe was 1981. It’s been great to show my stuff to people in Europe. They have shown me love for over 30 years! I made the cover of the Sotheby’s catalogue in Amsterdam in 2005 - I‘m the first living person to make the cover since Andy Warhol. I have travelled the world and been in the best museums (Whitney in NYC, Gronigen Museum in Amsterdam, Boymens’ Museum in Germany, MOCA in LA). It was an honor to go to China & paint with Zang Dali in 2010. At 55 I’m happy to be alive and looking forward to bigger & better things to come!