By Jenna Weis
NYC subway trains in the 60s were seen as means of exposure for aspiring graffiti artists. These mobile art spaces became covered with tags and bubble letters that inspired the now internationally known artist Sonic, aka Jesse Rodriguez to create his unique style in street art. The NYC native is the originator of the “Folding Letters” or “Ribbon Letters” style that put him on the map in the 70s. He says “My graffiti style was one of the first three dimensional lettering style that was ever painted on a New York City subway train. It was before its time, (as seen in book “Subway Art”) and still being used today by other graffiti artists around the world.”
By the 80s NYC street art transitioned into a true art medium and corresponded heavily with the growing popularity of Hip Hop music. At this time graffiti defined the urban culture and Sonic was fully in the mix of the street art world, creating murals bold in color, highly influenced by the NYC fast paced environment, and aesthetically dynamic. Regulation of street art was not nearly as rigid as it is today giving the artist the freedom “to paint a mural on a subway train all night long without getting arrested, if you were slick” he says “These days you can’t even walk on the subway tracks without being spotted or videotaped.”
In 2002 Sonic took his talents overseas to France, where graffiti is supported and respected as an art form and not seen as a crime as it is in the states. Sonic says “There are graffiti festivals, competitions and most importantly graffiti art shows and auctions that include some of the best graffiti artists from around the world.” It wasn’t long after this voyage that Sonic’s spray painted creations would expand even further around the world. He says “I travel to many different country’s to paint my graffiti style murals, such as Hong Kong, Jakarta, Belgium, Germany, Singapore, and Puerto Rico. Just to name a few.”
Sonic has currently brought his famous train designs back to life by recreating them on canvases, and on August 24th you can see him create his newest designs on the Huntington Arts Council building in real time at SPARKBOOM’s event “Off the Walls” from 2 pm-6 pm located at the Huntington Arts Council. There will be live music, world renowned street artists, and 40+ vendors!