Phase 2, who in the aboriginal 1970s was one of the best prolific, adroit and emulated New York graffiti writers, and who after produced aboriginal hip-hop’s best avant-garde fliers, died on Dec. 12 at a nursing and rehabilitation centermost in the Bronx. He was 64.
The account was amyotrophic crabbed sclerosis, additionally accepted as Lou Gehrig’s disease, his longtime acquaintance David Schmidlapp said.
In the South Bronx at the aurora of the 1970s, all the aesthetic apparatus that would adhere into what became broadly accepted as hip-hop were alpha to booty shape. At the centermost of them all was Phase 2, an intuitive, confusing aptitude who aboriginal fabricated his mark as a biographer of graffiti — although he hated the term.
“He had a accustomed allowance or adeptness to stylize letters,” said Alan Ket, a architect of the Museum of Graffiti in Miami, abacus that he “continued to advance styles that were beat or aloof berserk innovative.”
His access on the alpha art anatomy was seismic.
The graffiti artisan Coco 144, built-in Roberto Gualtieri, met Phase 2 in 1973 and begin him to be an about mystical figure: “a actuality from addition ambit that came in and deconstructed the letter and reconstructed it again.”
Phase 2 was built-in Michael Lawrence Marrow on Aug. 2, 1955, in Manhattan. He was aloft primarily in the Bronx, in the Forest Houses projects, and abounding DeWitt Clinton High School, which in the aboriginal 1970s was rapidly acceptable a graffiti hotbed. Conveniently, it was beyond the artery from a Transit Authority accumulator yard; alms cars were the adopted canvas of the day.
He began autograph graffiti in October 1971, aggressive by a cousin, who went by the name Lee 163d. The anatomy was evolving rapidly, with anniversary day carrying a alpha set of artworks on alternation curve beyond the city. Phase 2 was best accepted as the avant-garde of softies — bubble-style belletrist that helped conductor graffiti abroad from simple tags and against full-fledged artworks. He corrective a array of substyles of these letters, with a name for each: “squish luscious,” “phasemagorical phantastic” and so on. Many innovations that became commonplace, like loops and arrows, are accustomed to Phase 2.
“His book consistently changed; you never saw his tag echo itself. He was consistently aggravating to abort himself, antibacterial his antecedent style,” said Hugo Martinez, who formed the United Graffiti Artists collective, of which Phase 2 was a member, in 1972.
Phase 2 — sometimes referred to as Phase Too or Phase II — was featured at the aboriginal arcade appearance of graffiti, a United Graffiti Artists presentation at the Razor Arcade in SoHo in September 1973. Autograph in The New York Times, the analyzer Peter Schjeldahl singled out one of his canvas works: “Phase II’s name is couched in fat, sensual, screaming‐pink calligraphy set in an ambient of dejected billows.”
He additionally corrective onstage, forth with several added writers, as allotment of Twyla Tharp’s ballet “Deuce Coupe” in 1973.
Phase 2 enjoyed the adventure of autograph on alms cars; “impact expressionism,” he alleged it. In an account with Wax Poetics magazine, he recalled autograph a composition to a badge administrator on the defacer band who had aloof absent arresting him: “If you alone knew/the absolute Phase 2/the cool sleuth/who’s still on the loose.”
By the alpha of 1975, he had abundantly accustomed up alms graffiti, affective his assignment assimilate cardboard and canvas or into sculpture. And he connected to advance new styles, sometimes casual them off to his adolescent writers.
Crucially, he alone the chat graffiti — “the G-word,” he alleged it. He begin it abusive and adopted agreement like appearance writing.
“It’s like calling a meteor a pebble,” he told Raw Vision annual in 1997. “I’m arresting and blaze accent in its circumstantial accompaniment and creating article abroad with it.”
He was additionally a ancient D.J., as able-bodied as a ballerina and a architect of the New York Burghal Breakers crew. And he rapped: In the backward 1970s, Phase 2 was a affiliate of a aggregation alleged the Wizards, and in 1982 he appear a brace of singles, “The Roxy” and “Beach Boy.”
Charlie Ahearn, the administrator of the 1983 blur “Wild Style,” has said that Phase 2 was the base for the film’s capital character, Phade (played by Fab 5 Freddy). Phase 2 wasn’t formally complex with the film, but he was a adviser on the 1984 hip-hop cine “Beat Street.”
In the backward 1970s, Phase 2 began applying his aesthetic ability to a altered medium: affair fliers. His designs, laid out by hand, were modern, alike and dense; he alleged the appearance “funky commonsense deco.” In an account this year with Eye on Design magazine, he said he drew influences from Art Deco, the banana book artisan Jack Kirby and the painter and collagist Romare Bearden.
He advised hundreds of them — for Grandmaster Flash’s aboriginal D.J. gigs, for a array of flush contest and, later, for the Friday night parties at the Roxy, area flush and city were commingling, and area he would additionally do alive painting
Phase 2 was adequate affective amid scenes. “For somebody to be from the South Bronx, he wasn’t like everybody else,” Van Silk, a above affair promoter, said. “He was intellectually different.”
He advised the aboriginal logo for the Tuff Burghal almanac characterization and the fliers for the New York Burghal Rap Tour, which in 1982 took a core of rappers, dancers and artists beyond the Atlantic to England and France, the aboriginal absolute exporting of New York hip-hop culture.
“He was one of the few artists of that ’70s aeon that connected with the newer set,” said Mr. Schmidlapp, who after began IGTimes (International Graffiti Times, after International Get-Hip Times). The advertisement became the aboriginal graffiti annual with any cogent distribution, for which Phase 2 became an art administrator and writer. In 1996, Phase 2 and Mr. Schmidlapp appear a graffiti history book, “Style: Autograph From the Underground.”
Phase 2 additionally wrote an oracular cavalcade for the hip-hop and graffiti annual Stress. His apropos included the assurance of who would acquaint the belief of his generation, and the able cipher of conduct for bodies in the graffiti scene.
He was “policing the culture, explaining, calling out suckers, biters and frauds,” the biographer Adam Mansbach, a acquaintance of Phase 2’s back the 1990s, said.
He was accurate about what collectors he would advertise to, and whom he would do shows with. “He’d rather go hungry,” Mr. Schmidlapp said, than accommodation his integrity. But if he admired you, his nephew Seku Grey said, “He gave abroad his art, literally.”
And while Phase 2 admired his anonymity — he rarely airish for photos, and for decades he about acclimated an alias, Lonny Wood, rather than his bearing name — he was an abiding letter writer, acknowledging to accord from adolescent graffiti artists.
His survivors accommodate his mother, a sister, bristles accouchement and seven grandchildren.
From the 1990s forward, Phase 2 brought his collage artwork to collaborations with the skate cast Supreme and advised anthology covers for the Rawkus and Definitive Jux labels. He connected to accomplish art, affairs abreast and occasionally in galleries, including works on cardboard and robot-style sculptures afflicted by his adulation of Japanese animation. At his afterlife he had been in the aboriginal stages of a documentary activity with Mr. Grey and a book about his fliers with the hip-hop historian Pete Nice.
But he was primarily anxious with attention what he accounted to be the actual and able history of aerosol art.
Phase 2’s writings, Mr. Ket said, “were active and a alarm to action.”
“A warning,” he added, “that bodies were actuality hoodwinked by the media, the gallerists, the collectors, added artists. He was our absoluteness check.”
Kitty Bennett contributed research.
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