Graffiti art live at Artexpo: Bronx-based Tats Cru to bring graffiti from the streets to the Javits Center

Graffiti art live at Artexpo: Bronx-based Tats Cru to bring graffiti from the streets to the Javits Center – International Artexpo New York: February 26-March 1

Kevin Lo

Tats Cru, a graffiti art company, is scheduled to paint large-scale banners live at International Artexpo New York. All six of the company’s graffiti artists will paint three themed banners, one for each day of Artexpo, and one pre-painted banner to be auctioned off during the show.

The three founding members of Tats Cru, Bio, Nicer and BG183, first got together in the 1980s with a rather controversial start. In their teens at the time, the trio painted New York City subway cars and concrete walls, honing their spray-can painting skills as part of the street graffiti movement All the effort put into dodging police to mount their murals proved worthwhile when landlords and store owners began commissioning their work.

“They noticed that our work was colorful and attractive, but since they had problems keeping their property clean, one of the biggest selling points for them was that it would go untouched by other graffiti artists [due to their reputation on the street],” said Bio.

As the trio matured and politicians cracked down on vandalism in the late 1980s, graffiti art left the streets and entered galleries, advertisements and pop culture. While they kept their nine-to-five day jobs, the friends would go on to garner more commissions for their work and paint fewer illegal murals.

The jobs increased to a point where they decided to give up their daytime jobs and pursue painting full time. “We started the company because we were broke, and we noticed that a lot of companies were using graffiti-style ads to market their products but they weren’t using graffiti artists. They were using commercial graphic artists that were trying to emulate the graffiti style,” Bio said. “At first we were upset, but we realized there was no reason to be because we were not making ourselves available”

So they made themselves available and, since then, have been able to employ talented artists who don’t have the opportunity to go to art school. The six artists that currently work for Tats Cru are both local and international talents from as far away as Puerto Rico and Dusseldorf, Germany.

The beginning proved to be difficult since neither Bio, Nicer nor BG183 had any business experience, but modeling their company after sign companies and ad agencies gave them the structure they needed to land high-profile deals with the likes of Coca-Cola and the House of Seagrams.

Incorporated in 1995, the company has worked extensively in the entertainment industry. Its work has appeared in movies such as “Finding Forrester” and “City by the Sea,” as well as in music videos and as album art for Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Fat Joe, Mob Deep and Missy Elliot. Tats Cru now paints several hundred murals a year and also paints schools, motor homes, RVs and commercial banners.

Although Tats Cru continues to grow in size and fame, their tools remain the same. “We still use spray cans,” said Bio. Visitors to Artexpo New York will see the ‘cru’ and their spray cans Feb. 26 to March 1.

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