New York street art pioneer Al Diaz has taken his talents to London, with the release of two exclusive edition runs. Marking his first European release, the works are socially-charged and injected with Diaz’s trademark sharp wit. Diaz created the pieces in partnership with Distassi Art, an introductory service based in the UK capital; they represent something of an encapsulation of the New Yorker’s career.
Al Diaz spoke with The Knocturnal recently. Speaking on the new collection and his work appreciated while a story is told across the world through his collaborations.
The Knockturnal: Al, Tell us about the SAMO story and your involvement?
Al Diaz: The SAMO©… the story is a long convoluted one. JMB gave our often used slang word Same Ol’ a new purpose as the name of an imaginary religion/cult/product. I was a seasoned graffiti artist and I saw the possibilities it had as a JESUS SAVES type of graffiti campaigning so we began to spread it around as a private joke. Anticipating some sort of response.
The Knockturnal: Just a kid from New York, did you ever think your art would take you around the world?
Al Diaz: I am definitely excited about showing in London, I was there once for the Barbican Basquiat BOOM FOR REAL show and it has a very NYC pace to it. I like London and appreciate its rich history.
The Knockturnal: Similar to Basquiat. As a known street artist, how did you manage to create your own work without imitating?
Al Diaz: JMB [Basquiat] gave our often-used slang word, same ol’, a new purpose as the name of an imaginary religion/cult/product. I was a seasoned graffiti artist and I saw the possibilities it had as a ‘Jesus Saves’-type of graffiti campaign, so we began to spread it around as a private joke”.
The Knockturnal: Know for your variety in style, how does the Distassi Art differ from previous work?
Al Diaz: My current work deals mostly with present-day life on this massively screwed up planet of ours. The distinction between studio and STREET art should be more than obvious. Work that is created in a controlled environment.(studio) does not constitute STREET ART, although it may have elements, ideas & materials often associated with STREET ART. The Operative word here is STREET.
The two editions ‘Tolerate Civilization’ and ‘Because War is Just a 3 Letter Word’ has been released as runs of 20 archival pigment prints. The limited series presents a unique opportunity for lovers of New York street art to capture a slice of history. Priced at £425 they are only available through Distassi Art’s Spotlight store which can be found here.