AL DÍAZ BIOGRAPHY
AL DÍAZ is best known for his friendship
with Jean-Michel Basquiat and collaboration
on SAMO©…, a well-known graffiti project
appearing in lower Manhattan from 1978
to 1980. The tag and text slogans became
known quickly on the streets and in the local
newspaper media because of their wit and
sardonic humor. Since Basquiat’s rise to fame, the SAMO©… legend has become a globally recognized graffito and has been celebrated as cutting social commentary throughout contemporary art history.
Al Díaz’s career spans five decades. Born and raised Puerto Rican in New York City, he was known by age 15 as a prolific and influential, first-generation subway graffiti artist. During the early 70s, his popular and recognized name was “BOMB-1.” After high school and the SAMO©… period, Díaz began to practice musical percussion, and created recordings, including a performance on Basquiat’s collectible 1983
“Díaz is an utterly credible figure in the evolution of illicit public art, but we wouldn’t be talking about him now if he weren’t doing something that is still noteworthy.”
– CARLO MCCORMICK, longtime art critic for Paper Magazine
early hip-hop album, Beat Bop which also featured Rammellzee and K-Rob. After being “on the scene” during the 80s Avant-garde art boom, for many years Díaz honed his craft as a foreman/lead carpenter in the New York building industry.
Currently, Díaz works with WET PAINT and other signage used throughout the NYC MTA subway system. After cutting out individual letters to create clever-sounding, surreal and poignant anagrams, he hangs
the finished messages in City subway stations. In 2016, he resurrected the SAMO©… writings and contemporary fans appreciate his frequent use of Instagram (albert_diaz1), where the satirical images are shared widely. Recently, Díaz released to the public his private collection of photographs of Basquiat as a teenager, with several more currently unrevealed.
Díaz resides in Brooklyn. His work has been shown and privately collected internationally, including in Beyond the Streets (Los Angeles, 2018), Zeitgeist: The Teenage Art Scene of Basquiat (Howl Arts, Inc., New York City, 2018) the World Trade Center (69th Floor Art4WTC, 2017), Urban Arts Fair (Manhattan, 2017) WestchesterArts (From the Streets White Plains, 2017), Art Miami, Scope, The Bishop Gallery (Brooklyn, 2017) and the 21st Precinct Street Exhibit (NYC, 2014). Díaz is featured in film productions (Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, BBC’s American Masters—Basquiat:Rage to Riches, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The “…(Al’s) signature will be etched in history as one Radiant Child), and magazine and book of the most handsome tags of all time.” publications, such as Jon Narr and Normal
Mailer’s The Faith of Graffiti, 2Create: Art
of Collaboration by Yoav Litvin, Street Messages by Nicholas Ganz and most recently, Aljazeera America, art.net, GQ Korea and Vogue UK among many others. Díaz has been a highlighted speaker and artist for a variety of panel discussions, including at the Brooklyn Museum, The New School, Christie’s Education, The Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, the London Barbican, Art Basel (Switzerland) and NOLA Arts Festival. A notebook that he made with Jean-Michel Basquiat and friends during his teens is currently held in the private collection of the Yale University DAVE NAVARRO’S RESIDENCE; LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA (SEPTEMBER 14, 2018) © 2018 Todd-Newman Beinecke Library. In 2018, Díaz authored SAMO©… SINCE 1978, a book meant to clarify, elaborate and illustrate the history and meaning behind the historical SAMO©… writings.