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Lee Quinones


Born: Lee Quinones, Puerto Rico, raised in New York City
Alias: Lee
How it all began: As part of the legendary crew The Fab 5ive, Lee came to prominence in 1976 with socially daunting piece called Doomsday that covered two full cars. Incorporated images of tenements, flames, and a horned monster the piece was a social commentary and established Lee as a poetic painterly graffiti artist with powerful activist abilities.

In 1978, he introduced Howard the Duck on the handball-court wall of Corlears Junior High School 56 on Henry Street on the Lower East Side. In the piece, Howard proclaimed "Graffiti is a art [sic]." The mural was commissioned by the school's principal and became so popular it earned Lee commissions from several nearby schools.Claim to fame: Lee became famous for being one of a few graffiti artists to successfully bomb an entire subway train. That was ten cars in all, from top to bottom and end to end. He later starred in the seminal hip-hop film Wild Style.Career highlights: One of the first graffiti artists to have regular gallery showings, Lee is referred to as one of the Fathers of the Graffiti Movement in contemporary art. His pieces are shown internationally and command upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. He remains politically and socially on point and has not lost his activist edge. Many of his works still contain a message.From the horse's mouth: "I'm against social, economic, and political oppression. I'm against war. I'm always here, standing on the side of the little man." - Lee QuinonesOther interesting tidbits: Charlie Ahearn, the director of Wild Style, had this to say about Lee: "Lee crystallized all of the conflicts there were within graffiti at the time. He was definitely ahead of the pack as the most famous underground legend on the subways, who had already – for six months to a year before we started shooting – been showing paintings in galleries. So, more so than anyone at the time, he was living the contradictions. The first day that he showed up to shoot, he arrived with all of this heavy pancake make-up on his nose. When I asked him why, he responded that he didn't want the cops to recognize him. Lee even refused to show up to the trainyard, even though we paid for the honor of being there legally, which is why we had to use Dondi to fill in for him. It was all very scary for Lee, who felt he was moving into quasi-religious territory. Even just to get him to star in the film, I had to threaten him with the prospect of casting his real on-and-off girlfriend Sandra [Lady Pink] Fabara as the lead character, which would entail her kissing another guy."

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