Here Are The Black NYC Street Artists You Should Know
By Leah Freeman-Haskin
New York is known for many things and its underground art scene is certainly one of them. Contemporary street art began in the 1960s when artists began tagging their names and initials around New York City. It rose in popularity in the 1970s and 80s when graffiti artists started looking for new ways and places to show their art and as a way to rebel against societal rules. By the 1980s, artists like Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, and Jean-Michel Basquiat were catching the world’s attention with their powerful imagery.
Nearly four decades later and the NY street art scene is still as vibrant as ever. Here are some legendary artists and where to find their work around the city.
Naoufal “Rocko” Alaoui
Naoufal Alaoui, known as Rocko, was born and raised between Morocco and Brooklyn. He lived in Andalucia, Spain where he was influenced by the artistic combinations of the eastern and western civilizations. He learned how to write Arabic calligraphy when he was 4 years old and the markings have become his signature style.
His most famous mural is a portrait of the Notorious B.I.G., “King of NY”, which was painted in 2015 by Naoufal “Rocko” Alaoui and Scott “Zimer” Zimmerman, in Bed Stuy.
According to widewalls.com, Blade is a famed New York-based street artist and a proud owner of the title “King of Graffiti” since he painted over five thousand trains with his iconic style of characters. Blade began writing on the trains in NYC in 1972 and is credited with developing several classic graffiti styles, such as overlapping 3D letters and Blockbuster Letters.
Now, you can see his work in galleries around the world in various mediums including spray paint, markers, and acrylic on canvas.
Born in Brazil, Alexandre Keto spent most of his youth in Baltimore before taking his talent to New York City. He is a self-proclaimed visual artist, muralist, and social activist whose work can be seen throughout the streets of New York and Baltimore.
His mural, “Mother and Child”, can be viewed in Long Island City, Queens and is a stylized mural drawing attention to race and class issues. It depicts a selfless mother strapping a baby on her back while picking up food.
Chris Daze Ellis was born in 1962 in New York City. He began his career painting New York City subway cars in 1976 while attending The High School of Art and Design and has become one of the few street artists to take his work from subways to galleries. Daze still lives and works in NYC where you can see his work throughout the streets of Baton Rouge, the Bronx, LA, and many other cities around the country.