The relationship between Graffiti (street art) with the clandestine and the illegal, and consequently with prison, is commonplace today - evidence of the movement’s artistic insurgence and social dissidence. The majority of its authentic (not replicated, derivative, or invented) authors have been condemned to incarceration by the express prohibition of their creative actions. In fact, legitimacy and status within the ranks of the internal hierarchy of these street artists, is determined as much by a criminal record as by other factors like risk, artistic contribution, ubiquity, competition, egoism, aesthetics...
The previously unpublished drawings by CASE 2 and KEZ 5 included in this exhibition were all created behind prison walls during the repeated sentences served by the two and still being served, for their creations and their repeated attacks on the social system (vandalizing public and private property, traffic in controlled substances, disorderly conduct, etc.).
Kez 5: Untitled
Photo courtesy of Groninger Museum
While CASE 2 represents the old school of New York Graffiti of the early 1970s, KEZ 5 is an inescapable reference to the continuing vitality and world wide validity of this art movement of the streets. Currently, CASE 2 is serving a sentence of seven to nine years and has spent a fourth of his life incarcerated. Meanwhile, KEZ 5, is serving 18 months and has been convicted 34 times over the past 16 years. CASE 2 is president of TFP, The largest crew in the world. KEZ 5 is president of YKK, perhaps the most feared and belligerent crew. Both of these writers are highly respected in prison for their “skills” (technical and expressive talent) as well as for their reputations and character.
The works in this exhibition generally make reference to a parallel reality, to the fictions and dreams in which their authors live. The drawings by CASE 2 on paper hats used by cafeteria workers, for example, evoke his imposed destiny to working in the prison cafeteria, because he's missing an arm and a leg. This exhibition includes a portrait of CASE 2 made by KEZ 5 and numerous examples of the uses of the different materials - which are limited by the conditions imposed with incarceration. Although they do not know one another personally, the admiration KEZ 5 has for the work and attitude of CASE 2 approaches idolatry, because of the latter's obsession of the with conquering and being a "king".
Groninger Museum Web Site