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Melvin Samuels Jr. (aka NOC 167)


Born: Manhattan, 1961, grew up in the BronxIn the beginning: His mother was an administrator in the Lindsay Administration. Melvin went to John F. Kennedy High School on 225th Street in the North Bronx. While in high school, he participated in classes at the School of Visual Arts designed especially for talented young students. There, he learned basic animation, and inspired by his older brother's tags, he started doing graffiti.

How his career began: At the end of the 70's, Melvin became one of the innovators of the graffiti writing called "wild style," which took writing to another level by elaborating on 3D - stlye drawing, creating movement with letters and breaking the mold of the formal, straight - up bubble letter of the early 70's. Now known as NOC 167, he became a style master, a writer who passed out his drawings to different writers to duplicate on subway cars.

Claim to fame: NOC, along with fellow graf writer Zeph, designed the animated intro to the classic cult film "Wild Style." Also, his famous car, entitled "Style Wars" - considered one of the best subway cars ever painted - was reproduced in 1991's High and Low exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.Career Highlights: Melvin participated in group shows at an alternative art space in the South Bronx called Fashion Moda, as well as the famous Times Square Show of 1980 along with Keith Haring (who cited NOC as an influence) and others. During the early 80s he sold work to museums, including the Rotterdam Museum and enjoyed artistic success in Europe.Interesting fact: Lee painted a train one Christmas Eve entitled, "Merry Christmas to New York." It was a ritual to stay up all night and ride the train into the city in the morning to see people's response. On Christmas morning, he watched the riders in Grand Central give the train a standing ovation, while he stood, unknown, on the platform.Dark days: Melvin painted his last subway car in 1984 when it was basically impossible to paint on cars anymore under the Reagan administration. Galleries gave up on graffiti as the war against it started. Amid Contra scandals and the beginning of the crack cocaine and AIDS epidemics, he began going in and out of hospitals, as his mental illness and paranoia came to the fore. In 1986, he became homeless. He lived on the streets, skipped between different men's shelters, and soon developed a drug problem.Melvin disappeared for 10 years, was presumed dead by many of his graffiti colleagues and forgotten by the art world in general.Light at the end of the tunnel: In 1994, while conducting art workshops at New York shelters, artist Andrew Castrucci ran into him at a men's shelter in Brooklyn. He'd had a book on graffiti with one of Melvin's pieces, which he autographed next to his subway car, "Style Wars." After collaborating with Melvin for a few weeks, Castrucci contacted Daze and Lee Quinones, and told them he had seen NOC. According to Castrucci, "They both responded in shock. There were memorial graf murals dedicated to NOC 167 in all five boroughs."Daze contacted the artists who recreate the Hall of Fame every few years on 106th Street and Park Avenue in a schoolyard, which became an outdoor museum of the best writers' work. Many of these artists were inspired by Melvin's work from the 70's and when they found out NOC was still alive, they invited him to do a piece.

As of the 2004, Melvin sells his work and successfully exhibits in New York.

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