• April 17, 2005
  • Posted by Marc

REVS in Tomorrow’s New York Times

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/>Over the last couple of weeks, Randy Kennedy has been diligently working on a
story for the New York Times on the legendary graff artist Revs. Revs left the
graffiti scene back in 1994 but has since re-emerged on the streets of New York,
this time with a series of absolutely stunning metal sculptures.

tomorrow’s paper, Randy’s story on Revs will finally hit the streets. The most
remarkable thing about Randy’s piece for the Times is that he was actually able
to track down Revs and Revs agreed to a very rare interview.

should be noted that all the attention Revs has been getting on the web, and now
in the New York Times, comes with a price. Visual Resistance sent us an email
yesterday saying that two of REVS’ best metal pieces have already been stolen
from their locations.

Here’s the email we received yesterday:

Hi Marc & Sara,

Just rode through Dumbo on my bike and
thought you would want to know
that two of the great REVS sculptured have
been buffed.  I fell off
the bike when I saw the first one and just stared
for a few minutes.
When i saw the second one had been killed too, my heart
just sank.

I just wrote a real pissed-off entry about it on our


Now that I’ve got that out of my system I’m
more sad than angry.  This
type of shit kills me.

Hope all is

Here’s Randy’s article which
will run in tomorrow’s Times:

April 18, 2005

style="font-size:130%;">A Graffiti Legend Is
Back on the Street


He arrived on
foot, and on time, wearing heavily grease-stained beige overalls and boots. He
seemed to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s, with thinning light brown hair. He
had the windburned eyes and blackened fingernails of an ironworker, along with
the vaguely feral intensity of someone on the lam.

But he hardly
looked like the kind of shadowy revolutionary figure who had once declared that
his goal was to “tear the city to pieces and rebuild it.” Now, he says, smiling
weakly, “I stop at stop signs; I pay taxes; I get up and go to work and get a

In the New York graffiti world of the early 1990’s, he was
everywhere and larger than life, sometimes literally: the name Revs, usually
accompanied by that of his partner in crime, Cost, could be found scrawled,
wheat-pasted or painted in gargantuan white letters on overpasses, walls and
roofs from SoHo to northern New Jersey. The work upended many traditional
notions of graffiti and helped inspire a new generation of so-called street

Then in late 1994 Cost was arrested for vandalism. Revs went
underground and left the city for Alaska. And when he returned, his work went
mostly underground, too - into the subway, where he painted long, feverish diary
entries worthy of a Dostoyevsky character on dozens of walls hidden deep inside
the tunnels. (He called this a personal mission and said he did not care if
anybody else saw them.)

But over the last few years, he has re-
emerged into public view and reincarnated himself in a way few of his fans ever
expected, as a legitimate and (mostly) law-abiding sculptor. He has made dozens
of works using construction-grade steel and other metal parts and has sought the
permission of building owners to weld and bolt them to the outsides of buildings
in the meatpacking district, the East Village, the Gowanus Canal area and Dumbo,
where the gentrifying but still half-deserted streets have become a veritable
Revs gallery.

Yet unlike many former graffiti artists who have turned
their street credibility into successful careers as graphic designers or youth-
market branding gurus, Revs has continued to shun, angrily, the worlds of
conventional art and commerce. He makes his living about as far from the art
world as possible, as a union ironworker, surrounded by co-workers who mostly
have no idea of his reputation as a near-mythical deity of the graffiti world.
His only gallery show, in Philadelphia in 2000, was to raise money so he could
pay a lawyer after he was arrested for the subway graffiti. Otherwise, he has
refused to sell his work or take commissions for it.

“To me,” he said
recently, in a rare interview, “once money changes hands for art, it becomes a
fraudulent activity.”

He also continues to avoid publicity. In order
to find him, a reporter contacted several graffiti aficionados, most of whom
warned that Revs, whoever he was, would probably not cooperate. Calls eventually
led to Julia Solis, an author and photographer who specializes in charting
forgotten and subterranean New York. She agreed to pass a message along to Revs.
A day later, a call came to the reporter’s home from a man with a thick New York
accent who agreed to an early-morning meeting in Brooklyn, at an intersection
almost beneath the Manhattan Bridge, on the condition that his photograph not be
taken and his name and age not be revealed.

He apologized for the
cloak-and-dagger routine but said that his anonymity was still his most prized
possession. “I don’t want to become nobody; I just want to do what I do,” he
said, stressing, as a kind of implied message to the police, “I’m not trying to
stage a major comeback or anything.” (The New York Police Department confirms
that he has not been on the radar screen of the Citywide Vandals Task Force
since his arrest in 2000.)

But Revs fans can be forgiven for thinking
a comeback is in the works. Over the last several months, pictures of the
sculptures have shown up on several street-art Web sites. This has prompted
graffiti cognoscenti to scour the streets to find - and in a few places, to
wrench loose and steal - the works, most of which are clustered in or close to
Manhattan, although some have been discovered as far afield as Queensboro

“He’s huge, you can’t deny it,” said Will Sherman, a
photographer who operates a Web site called untitledname.com and has scouted out
several Revs works recently. “I have a lot of respect for him not just as a
graffiti artist or street artist but as an artist in general.”

Sutherland, another photographer, spent a year tracking Revs down. Last year, in
a book of portraits of graffiti artists titled “Autograf,” he featured a picture
of the artist himself, though his face is completely covered by a cap. “I’m a
photographer and I don’t usually get intimidated or impressed by celebrities,”
Mr. Sutherland said. “But when I met Revs, I kind of geeked out.”

/>During the recent two-hour interview in Brooklyn, Revs conducted a proud tour
of half a dozen of his metal sculptures, only one of which he said he installed
without permission: a tall, heavy piece that spells out “Revs,” welded several
years ago to the top of an abandoned loading dock. Asked how he was able to weld
something so large and distinctive to a building without attracting a crowd and
eventually a phalanx of police, he shook his head.

“I can’t talk
about my techniques,” he said sternly. “It’s a trade secret, you know? It’s my
cloaking device.”

Over the last few years, he said, he has made more
than 100 metal pieces, some weighing hundreds of pounds, and he estimated that
he has installed about two-thirds of them with permission, including nearly all
his most recent sculptures. He says that while he may not be a guerrilla street
painter anymore - some of the 1990’s wall paintings were more than 10 feet tall
in the middle of sheer walls, most likely requiring a harness and ropes to
accomplish - he is still a fully committed outsider, and his work will be seen
only outside, on New York City streets, as long as he keeps making it.

/>He kicked one the pieces, made from two-inch-thick steel, part of a column
left over from a construction project where he once worked near the Port
Authority bus terminal.

“A car can back up into it,” he said.
“Somebody can get their head cracked open on it. A dog can go on it. Somebody
can paint it if they want. It rusts. It’s more interesting that way, you

But is it any less interesting because it’s legal?

/>He smiled. “I might still have a few little knickknacks scattered around in
places where they’re not supposed to be, who knows?” he said. “I’m not
commenting on that.”