By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST, June 2020
Al Diaz and Jean-Michel Basquiat came up with SAMO©, a contraction of Same Old Shit, as a brand name/ faux religion/ comicstrip pictogram while still at City As School High School in Brooklyn Heights. Diaz was already active on the streets. “Otherwise Samo would never have been a street art project,” he says. SAMO became a public presence in the beginning of 1978 but the duo increasingly butted heads and in 1980 Basquiat let Manhattan’s walls know that SAMO IS DEAD. The graffiti movement was in overdrive by then but Diaz felt he had been there, done that. “I was over it,” he said. He made music, playing percussion, through the 80s. It was The Radiant Child, Tamra Davis’s 2010 documentary about the Basquiat phenomenon, that motivated Al Diaz to set the record straight, bring SAMO back to life and return to art-making fulltime. His signage-derived pictorial vocabulary is as street-smart as ever and now he’s butting heads with other problems, including Covid-19. WM
Anthony Haden-Guest is an internationally known writer and artist.
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