At an art show for Risk recently I was asked who my favorite graffiti artist was. There was so many to name, it's kind of like asking what your favorite movie is. Off the top of my head, I said it had to be a tie between Seen and Dondi.
Born of Italian, Black descent in New York City, Dondi rose through the ranks of the early 70's subway graffiti years, along with his crew CIA. He pioneered the use of the whole train as a canvas, and was responsible for some of the first graffiti that was being noticed as a legitimate artform. It left one subway rider to famously note "If only they could all paint like that guy...".
He then went on to befriend scenesters like Debbie Harry, Malcolm McClaren and Fab 5 Freddy, which led to him being part of the Graff Tour of 1982, where along with Zephyr and Futura 2000, went on the road with the Clash, and actually did live art while the band played in front of them.
Futura 2000, Zephyr and Dondi at UCSC, 1982.
Dondi then had a succsseful move into the fine art and commercial art worlds. His work could be found on galleries all over the world, all the while never forgetting his background in graffiti art. Suddenly, in 1998, it was reported that Dondi had passed away, revealing a long fight he'd been having with HIV/AIDS. The news hit the artworld hard, and inspired the Dondi White Foundation. A book, Dondi White: Style Master General was also released in his honor. The book showcase all of his subway art as well as his 'outline' drawings and fine art. This book is so packed with art, it reminded me of how much work Dondi had actually done.