Artist Al Diaz is often asked to speak at panel discussions about Jean-Michel Basquiat or to lend his expertise for new exhibits about the world-famous artist. But Diaz was just as much a part of the downtown street art movement as his buddy Basquiat; in fact, the two got involved with the art form together. They met in high school and created the tag SAMO©, which appeared throughout lower Manhattan between 1977 and 1979 and put them on the map. They were first-generation NYC subway graffiti artists, and Diaz later became a text-oriented street artist. Today, you’ll see his hand in the subway again with his WET PAINT series, which uses individually-cut-out letters to create “clever, surreal and sometimes poignant anagrams.”
We recently chatted with Al Diaz to get the inside scoop on street art history in New York City, what it was like to work with Basquiat, and how he and his art work are much more than a shadow of his famous friend.