Thursday, June 18th, 2009

RIP Iz The Wiz


Sad news today from KET: the great IZ THE WIZ has passed.

Here’s a moving excerpt from KET’s blog post:

For many of you that do not know, IZ TMB, was a subway god. From his beginnings in the early 70s he painted like there was no tomorrow and came up with one of the most iconic and recognized throw ups in subway writing history. It was by sheer will and determination that he became a true king of New York City. He was king of the lines and not only did throw ups but also whole cars and insides.

While many people count IN TOP as the throw up king of all time, in actuality that title belongs to IZ who out painted and out lasted IN and mostly every other writer in the history on New York’s movement.

His style was always wild and psychedic seemingly inspired by some far out LSD trip which took him to another universe. His whole cars reflected this and his walls and drawings also captured his other dimensions of existence. In an era where style mastery was strict and copy cats were plentiful IZ’s style was avant-garde and loose, his blockbusters true works of beauty.

I was lucky enough to be friends with IZ. I meet him in the early 90s way after his subway reign but he was still into it. At the time he was one of us, the guys that were trying to keep graffiti on trains alive, and was painting with SAR, FUZZ, and CAV. They were hitting the lines out in Queens while the rest of us were putting in work elsewhere. Always a bomber, IZ also got into painting freight trains and wall productions in Queens. By the mid-90s he was responsible for making the Phun Factory (now 5 Pointz) a reality and a place where writers could paint legally with no stress from police. Because of him many writers came out of retirement and the old school get togethers started.

For the past 10 years IZ’s health had been in a steady decline. He left NYC and moved around in order to be able to live affordably and where there was more accessible health care. We all saw a king deteriorating before our eyes but we also saw a man with a great spirit surviving. His illness seemed to come from as a result from all those years in the tunnels breathing toxic spray paint and track dust. The price he paid to be known is immense. He will not however be forgotten.

I was lucky enough to introduced to IZ by SPAR ONE and his brother DEAL and got to interview him for Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Here’s what IZ said about how he got started:

I was born in ’58, so I grew up in an era where I heard of free love and peace and everything should be lovely and wonderful. But at the same time I’m seeing Martin Luther King get assassinated, Kennedy get assassinated, Malcolm X get assassinated, not understanding the politics at the time. All this turmoil was going on, and all this hate was stirring up in existence.

Didn’t understand really why we were in Vietnam in the first place, and when I’m growing up and i’m reaching puberty, I want to do something with myself and be a part of something. The neighborhood I was in—it was either become a gangster, a drug addict, a musician or—here’s something new. It was creative, it was secretive, it was a secret society.

My mom and dad didn’t know I was doing graffiti until I actually brought them a postcard and they actually thought i took the photograph, cause I was into photography. I told her, ‘No I did the piece.’ She was shocked, she didn’t know how to handle it. This was like in ’77 or ’78 after I was already established. It was a secretive thing. It was a good way to meet girls too!

For those who might remember the Style Wars DVD, IZ gave a heartbreaking interview in which he cited his health problems and said that if he had to do it over again, he might not.

I’ll try to find the original tapes and post a more complete transcript of IZ’s story soon.

Rest In Power, IZ.

+ You can check IZ’s life work at his website,

+ More info on IZ’s memorial will be posted at Gettin’ Up.

+ Tribute to IZ at Upper Playground.

+ Link updates at Old School Scholar

posted by @ 9:43 am | 8 Comments

8 Responses to “RIP Iz The Wiz”

  1. Miss YOu says:


  2. From All-City to All-Heaven bomber, Peace to Iz the Wiz and family. Thanks for burning the lines for the culture!

  3. SE LEN TOPIC * says:



  4. prone says:

    Iz the legend… you inspired me as a first generation UK graf artist to start what we started over here.. although as a painter i’m retired now I do occasionaly come out & paint & will always do so in your memory… Rest in PIECE. Thanks for your amazing mark in & on society


    REST IN PEACE IZ THE WIZ>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


    BO aka BOND ONE

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