It’s something Artist Al Diaz has done many times. He is finding just the right spot as he begins to create a mural on the security gate of a storefront on The Bowery. That familiar sound of him shaking a spray paint can ensues.

What You Need To Know

  • Al Diaz is a first generation NYC Graffiti artist who later became a text-oriented street artist

  • Diaz partnered with Jean-Michel Basquiat is the late 1970s to create graffiti known as SAMO

  • Diaz has a new online exhibition beginning Friday April 23 at

  • Diaz was raised on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn

"Yeah it requires a bit of shaking, mixing all the components," said Diaz, an influential graffiti artist whose career spans five decades.

He is well known for his collaboration with the late Jean-Michel Basquiat on SAMO, graffiti that appeared in Lower Manhattan in the late 70s.

The new mural is in conjunction with a virtual exhibition of his recent work at Howl Happening, the gallery for Howl Arts called A Subterraneous Journal. All the work was completed during the pandemic, during which time Diaz said he was able to find more focus with fewer events and distractions.  

"In a sense it was kind of a good experience for going inside, working and focusing on what I want to do," said Diaz. “I got a lot of work done in the last year and a half.”

If the letters on Diaz's work look familiar, it's because they are made up of reclaimed New York City Transit Wet Paint Sign characters, and subway system icons.  

"Being a New Yorker and all, it's a kind of ubiquitous alphabet, constrained alphabet, that as commuters we see every day," said Diaz, who makes messages of all sorts with those letters intended to inspire action.

Diaz grew up mainly on the Lower East Side and for a time in Brooklyn. He says it's been quite a journey since his early days as a teenage graffiti artist.

"I started writing about 50 years ago as a kid, and the fact that it's become accepted, actually a discipline in some cases, it seems crazy but it's become that," said Diaz.

You can check out Diaz's latest work when the exhibition goes live Friday, April 23 at