Origins of Graffiti

Posted: 2nd December 2022
In late 1972, Phase 2 first used an early version of the “bubble letter”, a style of writing which would become extremely influential.

Lonny Wood, better known as Phase 2, passed away at the age of 64 in December 2019 yet his legacy will live on. A pioneer of the street born in the Bronx. Origins of graffiti look at his legacy.

Mostly active in the 1970s, Phase 2 is generally credited with originating the “softies” style. After that he influenced the early hip hop scene and it’s branding remains iconic. 

In addition to this, PHASE 2 used graffiti writing as it allowed him to get his “name” known yet remain anonymous. As he noted, tagging provided disadvantaged urban teens.

“the only significant vehicle to represent their existence.”

What we know about Phase 2

He began writing graffiti in 1971, inspired by a cousin, who went by the name Lee 163d. The form was evolving rapidly, with each day delivering a fresh set of artworks.

These were mostly seen on train lines across the city. However, he painted variations of these letters. With a name for each: “squish luscious,” “phasemagorical phantastic” and so on. Many innovations that became commonplace.

Most importantly, “His lettering constantly changed; you never saw his tag repeat itself. He was constantly trying to destroy himself, destroying his previous style,” said Hugo Martinez. Who formed the United Graffiti Artists collective, of which Phase 2 was a member, in 1972.

As we can see his influence stretched beyond the graffiti scene. Throughout the 1980’s he became well known for organising zines, rap shows, breakdancing and releasing his own music.

He was the first to create a large-scale, three-dimensional graffiti/aerosol sculpture. The piece stood over 6 feet high and was made of brushed steel. It stood for years in the Jacob Javits Centre. However it was accidentally removed and destroyed during a reconstruction of the centre.

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