Martha Cooper by Jay “J.SON” Edlin – Graffiti Sessions

Martha Cooper’s contribution by Jay “J.SON” Edlin on December 3rd 2014 at Graffiti Sessions (Southbank Centre).

Jayson Edlin grew up in the 70’s in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Vietnam war raged on, hippies took drugs and listened to amazing music, the civil rights movement fought the good fight.
Rejection of established values and organised protests, left a young Edlin enlist in the revolution— but how? All of Edlin’s movements governed by his neurotic over protective parents who sent him to a Draconian prep school in Manhattan . Thankfully, Edlin’s daily bus route to school took him through the South Bronx and Harlem . Outside the bus window he observed people and situations his parents strove to shelter him from. Soon the graffiti on ghetto walls changed from the traditionally political writings directed against the war, the president and racial injustice to the identity based name/number graffiti we have grown to know and love. Scrawled secret identities appeared suddenly and mysteriously: TAKI 183, SNAKE 1, STITCH 1, JUNIOR 161, CAY 161 Phase 2, Super Kool 223 and STAY HIGH 149 were some of the earliest and most prolific writers Edlin drew his inspiration from. Although he never met any of his mysterious heroes, Edlin knew he’d found a way to escape the pre-formatted drudgery of his adolescence and become famous. He christened himself Tarantula 235 in late 1972, writing only in his isolated neighborhood. He was a toy that nobody knew. By 1974 , tired of languishing in obscurity he re-invented himself as TERROR 161 and began hitting the subway trains of the #1 Broadway local. In 1975 after he and his friends had made on impact, Edlin founded The Masters of Broadway aka The MOB. The Crew would become one of the most dominant on the line from 1975-1977. After a graffiti a four year absence from creative vandalism (1976-1979) Edlin returned to graffiti in 1980 for a last hurrah. Now in his 20’s , the game had gotten much simpler. J.SON executed a massive assault on transit , partnering with AMMO, SEEN UA , CAP MPC and T.KID 170 at various points during his return. His work appears in Style Wars, Subway Art , Street Art and various other films and publications. Graffiti remains Edlin’s passion. Documenting the NYC subway movement from a front lines perspective , Edlin has been writing for magazines since the 90’s and authored the voluminous book “ Graffiti 365 (ABRAMS 2011), a global survey of Street Art and Graffiti. He continues to moderate panels, write articles and speak to anyone who will listen.

The Graffiti Sessions was set up to identify new horizons for future city strategies on graffiti and street arts and opportunities and challenges for evolving creative practice, towards places that are both safe and sociable.
The event comprised a three-day series of talks, workshops and panel debates exploring the evolving roles of graffiti and street art in the urban environment and gathered a wide group of experts to debate issues surrounding graffiti.
The ambition is to challenge deep-rooted preconceptions and speculation that have until now limited the progress of both policy and practice related to street art and graffiti. Bringing together key institutions and individuals, the project initiated an open and sustainable discussion forum for the exchange of a broad scope of viewpoints and positions on street art and graffiti, and for the evaluation of their impacts on the quality of life for urban communities.

Graffiti Sessions was hosted by UCL Urban Lab, the Graffiti Dialogues Network at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London) and Southbank Centre.