Supreme’s latest collaborator, Lee Quiñones, is a household name for anyone who is into graffiti. Born in Puerto Rico in 1960, Quiñones grew up in New York’s Lower East Side as a contemporary of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat (both of whom have posthumously worked with the brand).
For Supreme’s SS18 collection, Quiñones teamed up with the brand to produce hoodies, pants and a skate deck, all featuring original work by the artist.
Quiñones is best-known for his large-scale subway car painting. Along with the infamous Fabulous Five crew (which included DIRTY SLUG, MONO 105.2 DOC109, and SLAVE, among others), Quiñones was known for being one of the first street artists to spray paint full subway cars.
It’s fitting that Supreme chose to work with Quiñones for one of the brand’s more political collections, as Quiñones’ work was a commentary on the social issues of the times, tackling issues like youth alienation and New York poverty with snappy, often tongue-in-cheek tags — case in point, his 1979 iconic piece “The Hell Express” which ran the length of a whole subway.
Quiñones’ work was also aggressively anti-war. His 1997 artwork “Jesus Christ: Superstar” juxtaposed Vietnam soldiers with a Christ-like figure while his 1979 “Stop the Bomb” piece commented on US-USSR politics and features text that reads “atomic-death” and “War is selfish death”
Speaking to The Huffington Post about his work, Quiñones explained: “I wanted to sarcastically address the doctrine that was being thrown at me.”
Quiñones’ work also featured on walls around the city. His most famous wall piece (and the one closest to the images seen in the Supreme collab) was a recreation of the kid’s comic character Howard the Duck. The cartoonish mural, which was first painted in 1978 outside the artist’s old high school, features the phrase “Graffiti is art and if art is a crime, please God, forgive me.”
But Quiñones’ work isn’t just in the street. He was one of the first street artists to transition from painting walls to canvas and today his work is part of the Whitney Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Over the year’s, Quiñones has shown at the MoMa, New Museum and featured in the prestigious Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany.
This isn’t the first time Supreme has worked with or paid homage to an iconic street artist. For its FW16 collection, the brand released a tribute to the late graffiti artist, sculptor and painter Dash Snow; in 2008, it collaborated with the street artist Ja; in 2011 it teamed up with Futura (the artist, not the font) in 2011; and as previously mentioned, back in 2013, Supreme worked with Basquiat’s estate for a range of tribute pieces.
Quiñones’ collaboration with Supreme is obviously a huge cosign, and is bound to bring his work into the forefront, but Quiñones has always been a graffiti icon. Not only is Quiñones one of the OGs of street art, his boundary-pushing has helped define both the aesthetics and medium of modern graffiti.
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In case you missed it, check out Supreme’s Spring / Summer 2018 lookbook here.