Writers Corner 188 – Beyond The Streets

Writers Corner 188

The first hangouts for graffiti writers were the high school playgrounds, where kids played hoops, smoked weed and tagged the walls. Sometimes one group of kids migrated to the next playground, where they would mingle with their peers. That group might then ride the trains of the city writing their names.

Some of the writers were gang members who were unable to leave their neighborhoods and thus were missing out on the playground subculture. This problem was remedied when a romance blossomed between STITCH 1 and ROCKY 184, who first met in 1969 on the corner of 188th Street and Audubon Avenue. Thirteen-year-old ROCKY 184 lived nearby, but 16-year-old STITCH 1 lived in the Bronx. He would trek from his home early each morning to walk ROCKY 184 to school. A year of friendship developed into something more, and 188th and Audubon became their meeting place — just out of view from ROCKY 184’s father.

The two wrote each other’s names on the walls there. Their friends followed suit, and by 1970, STITCH 1 had dubbed the location WRITERS CORNER 188; it became a social touchstone for all, including gang members who turned their gang colors inside out to avoid confrontation, and is considered the first graffiti crew in New York City.

In Brooklyn there was also a problem with gangs. Members of the VANGUARDS fought and wrote at the same time. In 1971, Brooklyn writer DINO NOD set out to organize the first pure writing-only crew as a way to avoid getting involved with his neighborhood’s gangs. He formed the EX-VANDALS, short for “EXPERIENCED VANDALS.” They championed writing the group’s name over their individual ones, which created a buzz on the streets.

The EX-VANDALS announced themselves by wearing denim jackets emblazoned with the crew’s name. Fame was instantaneous. Early member WICKED GARY took the helm of the crew and leads it to this day.

Photos by Andrea Nelli, ROCKY 184 and Steve Kesoglides. Circa 1972.

BEYOND THE STREETS New York, 2019. Photo by Dan Bradica.