National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – June 11 – Wayne Roberts (Stay High 149)

0 Comments 11 June 2013


This week’s DPW was an avant garde artist in the medium of street graffiti at a time when the art form was a valuable expression of urban angst that gave a voice to a generation.

Wayne Roberts…aka Stay High 149.

He set the standard for how to do an elegant tag. How to be distinct from other artists doming something similar. In its own way it was like corporate branding. His tag borrowed thehaloed stick figure from the title sequence of the 1960s television series “The Saint,” put a joint in its mouth and turned it around.

The Smoker figure was a departure from the tags of the early 1970s, which relied on simple, straight letters, often done by young teenagers who were active only briefly. Soon stylistic flourishes like arrows and loops were added, but none were as successful as the Smoker.

Robert’s art really took off when he became a de facto star of the venerable Norman Mailer’s 1974 piece The Faith of Graffiti where Mailer collaborated with photographer Jon Naar. The book elevated teenage vandals, most of whom feared the police and refused to be photographed, into art heroes. While the youth of New York were not the first to tag their names in public spaces everywhere, Faith became graffiti’s portable catalogue of style.

Robert’s had a checkered past in terms of struggles with drugs and never really experienced the fame (or financial compensation) of a Banksy. Nonetheless he was a righteous dude, had a great haircut and made some bodacious art.

We’ll be featuring his work intermittently throughout the week.

- who has written 512 posts on The Shade.

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