In the words of curator Roger Gastman, “Before New York City made graffiti world famous, BLADE was one of the people who made it famous in New York.” BLADE (Steven Ogburn) was only fifteen years old when in 1972 he tagged his first train. By 1974 he was painting full cars, and over the next ten years he is said to have painted over 5,000 trains. Far more prolific than his peers, BLADE was the self-proclaimed “King of Trains.”
BLADE was also a talented and ambitious artist. Each of his subway paintings was planned in advance. He was always inventing new ways to render his name, coming up with original color schemes, and creating new cartoon characters to enliven his works. His paintings on trains clearly stood out and were often captured by the two most important photographers of subway art, Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant.
When graffiti-based art moved into art galleries in the early 1980s, BLADE began working on canvas. He was included in all the early “graffiti shows,” and over the years has exhibited in hundreds of museums and galleries. Energetic, personable and ambitious, BLADE personifies the graffiti art movement in all its varied manifestations. His work is not only represented in most books on graffiti, but he is also the subject of two artist monographs.
Gallery 98 has recently obtained a large collection of BLADE ephemera from his lifelong Bronx friend Ronald Glazer. Over the years BLADE shared with his friend photographs of his works, gallery invitation cards, publications, and regularly left behind spontaneous sketches. Almost all the items are signed and many contain personal messages.