Clogged Caps 8:
by Chad Hankins
Clogged Caps is a three day festival celebrating graffiti and hip hop that takes place in San Antonio every March. This year hosted about 70 graffiti artists and a slew of bands. But this story is about the numerous adventures in graffiti that I was fortunate enough to witness, not the music shows, of which I missed about sixty five percent. Now that you know what you’re about to read, let’s jump right in.
Day one of painting (which was on Friday, March 12th, for all of you litigious readers) was cold, rainy, and overcast. Not the most ideal conditions for outdoor painting, but the out of town painters had already made the trip, so it was too late for anyone to get sad about it. Most of the artists didn’t seem to mind too much anyway. I guess a little rain is better than a medium-speed chase through a dark alley with a fat security guard who’s fueled by pent up aggression and broken dreams.
Anyway, I’d gotten a text earlier that day from Perish, one of the writers from New Mexico, saying he needed a ride from the Greyhound station to the wall. After a 26 hour bus ride for him, and a nice day of sleeping in for me, my wife and I picked him up at around 5:45pm, and took him to his portion of the painting spot at Backstage Live. He immediately jumped out of the car and started unloading his paints. I couldn’t believe it! He just said hello to his fellow TNR crew mates, which is a group that originated in New Mexico, and started painting.
After Perish was out of the car and on his wall, I went and parked so I could see the sights. Even though it was getting late on the first date, there were still a good deal of untouched sections of wall. I guess not everyone wanted to take advantage of the full three days of painting time. It looked like most of the artists who had started by that point had only done outlines and sized their pieces up a bit, which is reasonable, considering that most of the pieces were between six and ten feet tall, and at least as wide.
After a few minutes of refuge and a couple of beers across the street at Tucker’s, I headed back to the TNR wall to talk to Perish and see the progress that the artists were making. While I was standing there, looking at the wall, I overheard one of the graffiti guys explaining how, when choosing a monicker, it’s important to take the shape of the letters into account. Otherwise your name might not look as good on the wall, and you may lose flow and continuity in your shapes. I also noticed that they were using the same colors. Blues, whites, greens, yellows, purples, and little else. It was cool, because even with all of their individual artistic styles, they remained unified as a crew. And it was apparent.
I made my way over to the wall that Resig and French of the Awfset Collective were working on.. Resig was doing his name in an array of colors. In juxtaposition to TNR’s matching color scheme, they were just using whatever they felt worked for their purposes. Resig had yellow, orange, blue, darker blue, green, and colors that I’m sure have ridiculous names like ‘Wallaby Sunset’ or ‘Arctic Lake Fire,’ throughout his piece. It was vibrant and youthful, yet maintained a sense of artistic discipline. Next to that was French’s character piece. It looked like a portly Mexican sheriff with an overgrown mustache who was in desperate need of a siesta and a shirt two sizes bigger. The attention to detail was fantastic.
When I talked to Resig, he pointed out that his style was informed by a younger, and more graphic design oriented influence. He addressed his desire to create something new, and harmoniously unify a variety of artistic styles, taking elements from tattoo art and melding them with classical art techniques, then thrusting them out of an aerosol can and on to a wall.
When I showed up on day two, it was early afternoon and still wet, cold, and overcast. I started making my way around the walls to see what had changed, and noticed a few more artists had peppered in, but there still remained a great deal of empty wall space. I traversed one of the corridors between two walls, and felt like I might pass out from all of the spray paint fumes that had collected there.
This leisurely stroll on the second day served to reaffirm what Sloke, one of the artists from Austin, had told me in an interview for a previous article. He described graffiti as “Stylized typography.” As I looked around, I started to see people using letters fashioned out of disparately sized blocks, jagged and craggy shapes, and letters that flowed very cleanly. Even when I was unable to read the names being written, it was very easy to get a sense of the style of the people that created them.
I also noticed a number of guys incorporating ‘Free Duo’ into their pieces. Not wanting to be ill-informed, I asked the TNR guys who Duo is, and what happened to his freedom. All they were able to tell me was that he’s a member of a crew called RTD, and that he’s locked up for charges that are graffiti related.
As I roamed to the wall that was furthest from the center of the event, I heard someone exclaim “I like your mustache! Can I get a picture of it?” I obliged, and used the opportunity to find about this bold strangers art. After a minute or two, I found out that his name was Awful, and he was from my hometown of Pueblo, Colorado! I noticed that he was using the colors of some of our shared town’s local schools, and I asked him what he’d call his style. He replied with “Wild style.” I’d heard Sloke, who was also participating in the event, use the same description for his own work, so I asked him for some elaboration. Sloke informed me that ‘Wild Style’ is complex, stylized, uses lots of color, and is often hard to read.
When I got back to the TNR wall, I found out that they like to incorporate acronyms into their group efforts. Some of the ones they’ve used in the past include The Next Revolution, Thermo Nuclear Reactors, The Natives are Restless, and this year’s, Till Nothing Remains. They pointed out that they weren’t trying to copy the idea from ‘The Neverending Story.’ Perish followed that statement with “Fuck Falcor. I’ve got beef with that fool.” (Sorry if there happens to be anyone writing ‘Falcor’ out there. I’m relatively certain that he meant the character from the movie.) They described the reference as that moment when you’re out of beer, out of paint, and it’s time to go home.
Day three served as a much needed break from the horrendous weather of the days that proceeded it. It was sunny out, but not hot. Fantastic conditions in which one could finalize their work. I saw a piece by Jaber that was an enormous take on the band Samhain’s horned skull logo, with his name in white, and others in pitch black over a mat black background. It was impressive, massive, and not there the day before.
I noticed later that night that two artists that go by Rei and Saint had done a wall with their pseudonyms and a massive, inverted Japanese style dragon on it. The spinal plates of the creature were done in a metallic gold, that very nicely offset the presence of vivid reds and greens throughout the body. When I turned around, I saw the showcard that Supher, the head C.C. Promoter, had been laboring over, and it was also a sea of dark colors against light ones, and a true representation of the artistic style that he’s known for. These pieces lent themselves as a small faction of many of the examples of the kind of amazing art represented in the area that this event encompassed.
It’s impossible to not take something from your experience at an event liked Clogged Caps. Whether it be inspiration from the art itself, or a new understanding of the people responsible for creating it, you’re guaranteed to attain some sort of gratification from your adventure through this commonly misunderstood subculture. The dedication and talent on display is something that you can’t afford to dismiss.