Looking back on Style Wars

Producers of and participants in the film share their memories.

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  • Filming Style Wars

  • Filming Style Wars

  • Filming Style Wars

  • Filming Style Wars

  • Filming Style Wars

  • Photograph: Courtesy Qwik

  • Photograph: Courtesy Qwik

  • Photograph: Courtesy Qwik

Filming Style Wars

RECOMMENDED: Street art and graffiti guide



Linda Habib, coproducer and logistical coordinator
“My favorite part of making the film was getting to select subway cars with the best top-to-bottom burners [paintings on subway windows] with the cooperation of the MTA, then filming the opening sequence of the movie. I was in the control room with the dispatcher, sending out the trains to showcase the graffiti for our cameras as requested by our director, Tony Silver. It was so cool. I remember feeling hugely grateful and relieved that our film crew and artists made it out safely after shooting and walking around the subway tracks with all their equipment on many a night shoot. Also, I was kind of nervous having Burleigh Wartes, one of our cameramen, lying on his belly hanging out of the front of a subway car to get a point-of-view shot of the tracks on a moving train. But look at the great film we got because of our brave and wonderful crew.”

Henry Chalfant, coproducer
“Graffiti didn’t start out being consciously political, it was just fun. But with time people saw it as a great tool for expression of all kinds, including political subversion. And it still is, because unsanctioned graffiti is free and no one can control your message. “

Crash (a.k.a. John Matos), artist
Hip-hop was the name the press gave to what was being done in and around the city. Graffiti was always the bastard child or the black sheep, because of the constant illegality revolving around our art form. Dancing and deejaying/emceeing wasn’t an issue, and it was treated unfairly. What is now considered hip-hop is so far away from the original roots, anyone could get confused.”

Cey (a.k.a. Cey Adams), artist
“Hip-hop culture is one of the greatest artistic movements in American history. The people making art today are just as dedicated as we were back in the ’80s. However, people outside the culture don’t recognize the new face of hip-hop. Rap music, graffiti and break dancing are alive and well in mainstream popular culture. Look at any modern dance show on television or visit a gallery or museum. Many of hip-hop’s pioneers are working, teaching and lecturing all over the world. We’re still moving the art form forward.”

Quik (a.k.a. Lin Felton), artist
“I was quite honored by the MTA’s respectful assemblage of three entire whole cars created by myself. All three trains had been done over a period of nine months, and the transit authority did not even clean the windows. One whole car, top to bottom, included a rising sun over a skull-and-bones IBM self-portrait character! The two other Quik trains had one of my better Easter/Quik Bunny rabbits and an Afroman cartoon smoking a big doobie. This type of respect nearly brought tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, many of New York’s most historic train painters do not appear in the film, and even my role is minimal. After all, the work was not necessarily sanctioned. However, I shall always hold dear in my heart and experience here in NYC the exploits of Blade, Comet, Lee, Vinny, In, Jester, Sach, Jace 2, Superstrut, True 2 and many others that contributed their best efforts to beautifying the subways.”

Mare139 (a.k.a. Carlos Rodriguez), artist
“In that era, I was writing with several of the Style Masters that were in the movie with me. They all had incredible personal and creative influence on my development as a young kid. If I admired anyone most it was StyleMaster NOC 167. He influenced my generation most. Although I am impressed with the abundance of graffiti writing talent today, I tend to look at modern and contemporary art to influence my sculpture works. The graffiti aesthetic is in my DNA so it shows up naturally. Rap is and will always be a component of the culture of hip-hop. The term has been misconstrued and monopolized by the media and adopted by consumers in an effort to simplify what they do not understand. People who live and study the culture know its legacy and the importance of the varied disciplines associated to it. The culture has at this point survived and surpassed the era of indulgence and posturing that watered it down. I think it’s stronger than ever and more diverse.”

Erni Vales, artist
“Crash was one of the only cats from the older generation who took time out to help me along, both in my career—bringing me into Graffiti Productions Inc.—and for giving me painting pointers as well at that gallery. It was very inspiring and influential to me. On an artistic value side, Kase blew me away in Style Wars. Watching his pencil flow across the page, filled with confidence, was magnificent to me. His outrageous 3-D pieces bordered on Cubist genius, and to this day I think if he had gotten some good artistic formal training, the paintings he would be rocking today would be blue-chip gallery masterworks. He always seemed to have a deeper understanding of letters, and even makes a mention to the fact that if he really cut loose, he would leave us all behind, scratching our heads in his wake.”

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