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Revs' Graffiti Revolution

Words:

Edd Norval
January 13, 2020

New York City is the place and Revs is the person. In the pioneering city of graffiti, few have had a greater impact on the artistic landscape than Revs, whose ethos and approach to his craft laid the path for everyone else that would follow, creating a persona and style that is raw and open, yet completely unknown.

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Straight off the bat, it must be stated that Revs is still an artist - as has always been the case - who works under the cloak of anonymity. His fame isn't derived from a persona or personal style, but solely from his creative output of which has spanned tagging, stickering and wheatpasting some of the most important pieces and styles associated with the NY scene.


Although not one of the formative figures from the original emergence of graffiti in the American artistic capital, Revs was a major player during the 90s boom whose vision proliferated to anf influenced an unexpected global audience.


It's somewhat ironic that, for an artist shrouded in secrecy, the two traits that defined Revs was ubiquity and honesty. Firstly, he was everywhere. In the typical mode of NY graffiti, it was about getting your name in as many places for as many people to see as possible. Although no one knew who he was, everyone also knew who he was, or at least, that he existed.

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In Chuck Palahniuk's seminal novel Fight Club, the iconic main character Tyler Durden saw the world as thus when he asked, "Maybe because God's hate is better than His indifference. If you could be either God's worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?", he could well have been talking about Revs, or at least borrowing from the artist's philosophy. You might not like what you're seeing, but he's going to make you look at it anyway. He won't be ignored.


Capturing the public's attention was Revs' way of standing out in a cold world, of becoming someone in amongst seas of faceless people. Making his name known was a statement in itself. A great equalizer. In an interview the artist stated that, "We think art should be dangerous. Everybody's into safe art, doing safe things in their studio. We're bringing danger back into it. It's got to be on the edge, where it's not allowed."


Despite wanting the public to acknowledge the work, he never wanted them to own it. According to him, "once money changes hands for art, it becomes a fraudulent activity." Art is a tool for Revs to say what he can't say elsewhere, but clearly, not something to be capitalised on for financial gain.

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His confrontational, even aggressive style, would point to him being one type of person - a tough character surviving in a tough city, but that doesn't quite add up. Revs was once called Revlon and shortened his name during an epiphany whilst contemplating suicide from Manhatten Bridge. Tenderness seeps through in what he does, in his angst and refusal to be overlooked. This is especially apparent in his diary entries.


A diary is a personal source of documentation, of delivering our innermost thoughts to a place where they're no longer trapped inside us. A fairly benign thought can have sharp edges when swirling around the gentle confines of our consciousness. Revs chose to talk about how he felt on walls, in a diary format, presenting in an accessible manner as to which anyone and everyone would somewhat be able to relate.


Some 235 pages have been counted in total, with stories of his birth and daily activities lending his otherwise unidentifiable art - at least beyond being just a name - with a personality. Raw and eclectic, Revs has always been on the frontline of what graffiti and art csn be. Standing out in New York City requires defiance and persistence. These are things Rev has maintained for years, continually breaking new ground on how we view traditional graffiti in a world of street and contemporary art.

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