Exclusive Interview with Cope2: Part 1Juxtapoz // Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Katie Zuppann: You have been in the NYC graffiti scene longer than a lot of other writers have been alive. Please introduce yourself to our readers and give us a bit of background on how you got into graf.
Cope2: My graffiti writing name is Cope2 and I got into graffiti writing back in late 1978-79. I would always travel in the New York subway system as a little boy with my mother while we would go to a family member’s house or just shopping.
I always noticed the huge names on the subway cars with bright colors. I thought it was normal and while I would sit inside the subway car, I’d see names all over the inside with different colors and sized markers. It was so exciting the energy it all had behind the names I first started to see. On the outside was Comet and Blade, also Tracy168, Mark198, Dr Pepper, Dondi, 2famous, Seen, Lee, Mitch77, Deli167, Fuzz, Iz the Wiz, Case2, and just to name a few.
Also I always loved to watch Welcome Back Kotter! At the beginning, there was a subway car rolling by and on it was a Pnut2 piece that I loved, so that’s what started me off. But it was my cousin Chico who was already a local tagger in the neighborhood that showed me how to tag. He always had this fat marker called a pilot and he would take me motion tagging inside the subway cars. That’s when you go inside an empty car and while it’s going from station to station and you tag on everything. So watching him really started me off and here I am today, a world-class graffiti legend!
How would you describe your style and how has it evolved over the years?
My style is original New York subway style. I got style from legendary graffiti writers like Mitch77 who is my idol. Watching the way he did his letters, arrows, and connections. I loved it and his color schemes were amazing. Also Dez, who is the famous DJ Kay Slay, had an awesome simple style, which I loved and inspired me as well.
I met Delta2 in early 1982 and he gave me a lot of style so he was pretty much my mentor. He did a lot of nice subway cars with Sharp back then. My style evolved through the years while painting a lot with writers like TKid170 who was one of the best back then. Today this guy can burn letters like no one. Dero taught me a lot.
These writers pretty much helped me get much better and more and helped me to evolve in my style today. Seeing graffiti writers all over the world has helped me keep up with the styles and times ‘cause these new writers today are amazing.
Graffiti has exploded in popularity in the past decade. What have you seen as the biggest changes to the scene and do you think the increased acceptance of graf by mainstream culture has helped or hindered the movement?
The biggest change I’ve seen has been how large and worldwide graffiti art has gone. It really amazes me and it’s pretty shocking. I would never have imagined while painting subway cars in the 70s and 80s that this amazing art form would breed all over the world. It’s such a beautiful thing.
Even though it gets a bad reputation at times, you have big corporate companies like Nike, Adidas, and Converse doing huge projects with graffiti artists like myself, Fafi, Mr Cartoon, Futura, Kaws, Seen, and others. So it’s good for the graffiti culture. It shows how amazing the art form is.
Definitely the mainstream culture has helped the movement a lot in combating how graffiti writing gets a bad reputation at times. There’s still a lot of good, and even better, art coming out of it, especially if you can make a living from it like artists such as Daze, Jon One, Seen, Sharp, Fafi, Kaws, or Os Gemeos have been doing. They’re pretty good at getting their art worldwide, from the galleries to product. So it’s pretty much paying off for us.
What other artists - graffiti related or otherwise - are you excited about now?
I pretty much love all kinds of artists, not only graffiti artists. It can be an artist like Bob Ross - oh man, he was amazing - to an artist like Kaws, Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, or Seen, who all have taken their art to other levels with product or in the galleries and museums. That’s pretty exciting for me and helps me to move towards that direction.
At my age (I’m in my early 40s) you can’t be tagging on subway cars or on walls in the streets anymore, which will eventually get cleaned up. If I get caught doing anything illegal, it won’t look to good for me as I’ve already paid my dues since the early 80s.
Pretty much everything I paint in the streets is legal. The great thing about doing and putting your art on canvas is that you can make a living from your artwork and do something you love to do without any legal problems. Your artwork will also live on and last longer. You give people who love the art a chance to have a piece of you, your artwork, and your history and that’s the most exciting thing for me. I thank God for blessing me with this art form, which I will be taking to the next level: to the galleries and more products like toys and footwear. Anything that pretty much comes my way, I will try to execute art on it to my fullest.
Photos by Indie184