(Above) P.H.A.S.E. 2 mural at Wynwood Miami Art Basel
From New York City, the artist known as P.H.A.S.E. 2. is a first-generation writer with roots in the subway art movement and the larger hip hop culture that developed in the Bronx in the 1970s.
He pioneered the “softie” bubble letter in 1972, which made up the earliest subway masterpieces, and provided the foundation for many other letter styles introducing arrows, curls, twists and other connections.
As an innovator of what he calls “wild lettering,” P.H.A.S.E. 2 was prolific on the New York trains. He was also an important cultural connector, and he designed many of the flyers for the early hip-hop events that brought together the top DJs, MCs, breakers and aerosol artists from the South Bronx.
Before becoming a writer, P.H.A.S.E. 2 was also an early b-boy or innovator of “breaking,” which he describes as a freestyle movement that took dance beyond the norm. He feels a heartfelt connection to Asiatic culture and has a love for martial arts, its physical dynamic, spirituality and discipline, as portrayed in the choreography of the kung fu movies that were popular among young African Americans and Latinos in the 1970s.
“Martial arts movies came on TV every Saturday in the ’70s and ’80s—you got a good dose of them through kung fu theater and VHS tapes,” P.H.A.S.E. 2 recalls. “In a certain respect it was part of us through our embracement of movies like Five Fingers of Death and Bruce Lee’s movies as well, like his character Kato in The Green Hornet.”
P.H.A.S.E. 2 has always drawn, and he remembers portraits were some of the first serious drawings he got into. For the Wynwood Doors in 2010, he used markers to paint kung fu stars from the 1970s. “It was my symbolic and due homage to the art and the movies,” he says.
Among the figures we see are the faces of Angela Mao, who was the first great female action star in Hong Kong films, Gordon Lui, Ti Lung and Sammo Hung. In contemplating, finally, the tribal warrior sculptures of the artist’s design, we may discover themes of inner strength and self-discovery in his work.
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EDITOR: La Mont
IMAGE: P.H.A.S.E. 2