Gastman Was Here… Graffiti in its Innocence

by Chris Murray on February 26, 2016

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“KILROY WAS HERE” is the ubiquitous graffiti an Irish-American named James Kilroy from Boston coined during World War II that spread everywhere and which greeted American GI’s in the most remote outposts of the world.img315

Roger Gastman, publisher, collector, film director, curator, author, and all around good guy has been a contemporary Kilroy leaving his creative mark far and wide.

Last Friday I attended the American Film Institute Silver Theater for the premiere of Gastman’s movie “Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence,” documenting the earliest generations of graffiti writers originating in New York City and Philadelphia around 1967 and during the year of the Summer of Love.

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SNAKE 1, STATIC 5, FLASH 191, and STITCH 1, at the P.S. 189 school yard in Washington Heights, New York. Circa 1973, photo courtesy Snake 1.

Gastman launched at the screening a profusely illustrated book also titled “Wall Writers” with original interviews of numerous graffiti writers from those early days. Among the wall writers documented in the book are Flint, LSD-OM, Rocky 184, Stitch 1, Wicked Gary, The Joker, Taki 183, Coco 144, and Bama from New York along with Cornbread, Top Cat, Kool Kev No1, Sugar Bear, Joe Cool, Neptune, Cool Earl, and Top Cat from Philadelphia along with many others. Gastman has assembled perhaps the most significant collection of interviews anywhere with the original wall writers. The wonderful names of those early wall writers remind me of the great names of the original blues musicians like Son House, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Big Mama Thorton, Lightning Hopkins, and Mississippi John Hurt among others.

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Copyright 2016 David Murray

A buzz went through the sold out AFI Theater when Washington’s greatest wall writer, none other then the legendary Cool Disco Dan, took the microphone during the Q&A after the screening and delivered some impromptu remarks. By coincidence I wore my vintage Cool Disco Dan t-shirt for the screening, and Disco Dan was pleased to see it. I had him put his ‘tag’ on the title page of Gastman’s book.

Govinda Gallery hosted the first exhibition of graffiti art in Washington 16 years ago in the spring of 2000 featuring among others SMK, Sest, Nicktail, Siek, and Jonny Real. A young Roger Gastman attended the opening of that exhibition. Congratulations Roger on all you do.

Roger Gastman courtesy R. Rock Archive.

The Original Sticker Tagged for Govinda's Invitation to Graffiti
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graffiti© Siek 2000

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