Monday, February 9, 2015

COOL ICON: GRAFFITI ARTIST DONDI

The Color Of Unity

It’s impressive what one action is capable of achieving, isn’t it? The concept that an idea, no matter how small can make such a big impact has always been a point of inspiration for me. How creating something astounding can come from a seemingly innocent, and perhaps irrelevant act like painting a simple “name” on random structures found in a city.

That is why I fell in love with the world of graffiti. As a kid growing up in the concrete jungles of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro it was easy to get lost in the greyness of it all. But it was the murals, the creative and colorful writing, and uniqueness of each piece that molded my love for the artistic world. It was graffiti where I was initially exposed to the intricate being of art. Da Vinci, Monet, and Klimt came later.

That is why, in honor of Black History Month, I want to speak about a hugely influential African American man you’ve probably never heard of: Mr. Donald Joseph White A.K.A. Dondi. Considered one of the most influential graffiti artists in the history of the art form.  


Born in Brooklyn, on April 6th 1961, Dondi was born into a difficult world. Brooklyn at the time was an unstable region due to racial tension and social conflicts, which was mostly brought out by gangs. Gangs ruled the streets to such a degree that he joined several of them in order to avoid any unwanted aggression.

It was in the mid 1970’s, his teen years, where graffiti started to be a big part of Donald’s life. Using the tag name (graffiti signature/artist name) “NACO” and “DONDI”, Donald progressed (much like Taki183 or Tracy168, the Godfathers of graffiti) from simple tagging to richer, more elaborate pieces. 




After being a part of the TOP (The Odd Partners) crew, he went out and started his own. With such noticeable artists as CRASH, DOC, and RASTA, the CIA (Crazy Inside Artists) crew changed the landscape and throughout the next 20 years Donald became well known as the standard for stylistic pieces, influencing countless young artists for years to come.


Throughout his career his “Children of the Grave” pieces (part 1, 2, and 3) were the most famous. Each piece covered the whole exterior of a subway car and the name was taken from a Black Sabbath song.


These pieces, along with many others helped change the perception that graffiti was a foul, criminal attempt at art, and allowed Donald to bring graffiti to the world, making him the first graffiti artist to have a one-man show in the Netherlands and Germany, and furthermore his work was collected by European museums.

Looking over this art form, what I love about graffiti is the irony of it all: How you make limitlessness from limits. Whether it is financial limits (not enough money to afford decent paint and canvas), educational limits (no proper training), or city limits (walls, buildings, bridges, trains, etc), graffiti doesn’t care. The world is your canvas. All that is stopping you is your imagination.

Another irony, and perhaps the most important part of the graffiti movement, is how this colorful movement doesn’t see color. Since its birth, graffiti was established by diversity. Race was never a limiting factor, and through its expansion, it could be considered one of the best race unifiers to date.





From New York, to São Paulo, to Rio, to Wynwood, what I’ve noticed above anything else is that creative expression in raw form is a platform for the ever-existential need to create, to show, to be. As people we continuously strive to make a mark in this world of ours, whether it be in a positive or negative light and through the expression of an idea we are able to not only make a statement, but change its perception as well. It opens our eyes to new ways of seeing, and as I sit here in Wynwood, I can’t help but feel that Dondi needs abundant acknowledgement because without his actions, the action of some before him and many after him, this beautiful part of Miami I feel blessed to work in simply wouldn’t exist.



Because of this I, as well as everyone here at COOL want to thank the late, great Donald “Dondi” White. His “irrelevant” actions made a very relevant contribution by breaking the color barrier with color.  #CertifiedCOOL

 By: Oliver Pernt

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