NY STATE OF MIND has teamed up with AL Diaz of the legendary SAMO©, designing a fresh collection of apparel based solely upon the graffiti artwork that Al Diaz and Basquiat made famous during the 80s.

[Words/ Interview: Tony Triumph. Photo Credit(s): Cavier Coleman]

Samo Al Perez

In a small but well lit lower-east side loft, a “chill” atmosphere had laced itself into the tight studio of Outlaw Arts Space. Filled to it’s brim with patrons from the creative world, the space was far from posh, but the scene was an instantaneously legit ride into the underground art scene. Gritty portraits sealed the white wall space, each with the identical familiarities of pop-culture, and signaled in wondrous gazes from the guests as they bounced their attention from wall to wall.  

Outlaws Artspace Al Perez

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The occasion? NY STATE OF MIND, a NYC based street clothing company seemingly inspired from rapper Nas’ legendary song, “NY STATE OF MIND” (both part 1 & 2), had gathered with those near and dear to announce a recent collaboration with legendary graffiti artist Al Diaz and the historic, internationally known graffiti tag SAMO©.

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[Photo Credit: Cavier Coleman. A NY STATE OF MIND x SAMO© launch party guest is captured in front of Al Diaz’s signature artwork.]

Baquiat Al Diaz SAMO

Jean Michael Basquiat, a name widely famous and often thrown around the pop-culture/ art world like popcorn, is most notably associated with the SAMO© signatures. In the 1970’s, Basquiat and Diaz became known for tagging their SAMO© quotes all over downtown NYC; what began as an “inside joke” between the two, soon transitioned to sarcastic poetry, bringing to light many of NYC’s hardships of the era.

NY State of Mind Clothing SAMO

[Photo Credit: NYSM website.]

Now, NY STATE OF MIND has teamed up with AL Diaz of the legendary SAMO©, designing a fresh collection of apparel based solely upon the graffiti artwork that Al Diaz and Basquiat made famous during the 80s. Surprisingly, this is the first time any of Al and Basquiat’s SAMO© work had been officially displayed in any gallery or put on clothing.

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As for Diaz, who has a career spanning 5 decades as a prolific and influential first-generation NYC subway graffiti artist, he currently works with WET PAINT signs used throughout the New York City subway system to became a text-oriented street artist. After cutting out individual letters to create clever, surreal and sometimes poignant anagrams, he hangs the finished works in subways stations throughout New York City. His WET PAINT work was recently featured in the 21st Precinct Street Art Event and will appear in the upcoming, “Street Messages” by Nicholas Ganz. [From Al-diaz.com]

Art history, indeed.

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There was a mellow mode of celebration amongst the gallery as the hip, downtown crowd mingled and notated how “clever” each piece was. Guest sipped beers sponsored by Sierra Nevada and dropped dollars into a wooden donation box upon entry.

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For a new fan filled with questions, I snagged in some words with NY State of Mind’s Brett Stein about his design life, and the historic makings of his collaboration with SAMO©.


Tony Triumph: What is NY State of Mind?

Brett (NY State of Mind): New York State of Mind is a mentality that people who have dreams that are determined to make them a reality live with. It’s a state of mind that allows people to make their dreams come true.

TT: And where was your “state of mind” when you started this collection?

B: Just hungry. I just wanted to be able to feed myself, and do it without sacrificing my integrity.

TT: How did New York State of Mind‘s collaboration with Al Diaz of SAMO© brand come about?

B: It’s actually a long storey, but I’ll try to make it quick and easy. First I connected with a photographer who had documented his work back in the 70s and 80s and then I coincidentally happened to run into Al, after being given permission to use the photos, and we decided that we would do this event together with the old photos and with his new work.

TT: What’s your typical design day like?

B: I don’t get inspired to do anything creative until the evening. Basically until I’ve got all my responsibilities taken care of. All the “work” is finished and my mind can kind of wonder and not have to worry about the realities of life. Smoke a little weed, drink some beers- by 10pm and 11pm I’m feeling kind of inspired. And if not, whatever. If I’m not[inspired], I’m not doing anything and work’s not being made. You jump on it when it’s there at any given time, but I do my best work at night.

TT: Last question, what’s next for NYSM?

B: [Slight pause] World Domination.

TT: World Domination?

B: [Shakes head].

TT: Ah, got ya’.

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