We were hidden from the sight of the city as we crept through lavender lit tunnels that gleamed with the colorful evidence of those that had created in that secret place. We had gathered everything we would need for the adventure, all the paints, brushes, rollers, wheat paste, posters and whatnots. We had illumination and a strong sense of purpose as we braved the wet underground infrastructure beneath America’s finest city. We would be journeying through a system of tunnels with the goal of reaching a large chamber at the end of those low-lit, vibrant tubes.
The tunnels and chamber itself were covered in large sweeping lines of color and form. Words, names, characters, drips and phrases were layered deep and tall as they watched us pass with quiet eyes. I wish I had brought my nun chucks and a slice of pizza, because this was prime ninja turtle territory. We were searching for sewer beasts.
I was with Exist 1981. He’s a figure that had been a ghost to me for some years now. My first encounter with him came circa 2006 when I found one of his stickers and put it on my journal. The sticker was an icon of a woman’s face, and after finding that single sticker I began to notice that same woman’s face everywhere. On signs high above passing crowds, and on railroad crossing gates as they lowered with oncoming trains. I would often glance left and find the woman’s face gazing at me as I drove south on the five. The woman’s face seemed to be watching with a slow calm constant stare, acting as a vicar or representative of the one that had placed it. The presence of some secret activity was always growing around me, but I was never witness to the hands that were at the root of this growth.
"it is the human condition to have insatiable curiosity, yet once our mystery is solved, we forget about what made us curious, then we find something else to ponder."
There are others like him also, other apparitions. Moving and creating while no one sees. Often working at night, but also managing to create their work unnoticed in the middle of the day. You are a part of their visual language, and are engaged whether you are aware or not. They include you, but you never see their faces. Exist keeps company with an orange ski mask and early a.m. hours to make sure of this.
“secrecy and street art go hand and hand.”
In the chamber, he worked for two solid days uncovering the sewer beasts as well as making his mark in the extensive tunnel system leading up to the creatures. I watched subtlety, originality and complexity unveil itself through each phase of his process. He was reacting to the strange and echoing space around him, as he always does with a well-seasoned confidence, and a steady hand. He told me about his process of visual repetition, and his love for Howard Stern. He spoke about his master plan for innovating a new formula in wheat pasting. He has been working with a chemist from Montreal on a recipe that will be making its way into the market as a “craft product” in the near future. So I guess that means the next time you get questioned by the fuzz as you’re throwing up that big piece under the overpass, just tell em you’re making crafts, and you’re good to go.
We caught sight of the beasts at the end of the second day without catching or being caught by anything else (sewer rats, shredder, hepatitis, etc.). With the discovery documented and creatures captured we made our way back to street level to reclaim our regular, non-subterranean lives. But not before leaving a breadcrumb trail to the chamber where the beasts now lurk. We left Sezio stickers, Exist stickers/ other Exist art along the path that leads directly to the sight of the creature's uncovering.
We also came up with this concept for any adventurous explorers: The first three sewer seeking explorers brave enough to follow the trail and take their picture in front of the two beasts will be heavily rewarded. Let me repeat myself more explicitly: The first three people to take their picture in front of the sewer beasts and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org will get hooked up with a hefty supply of Sezio/Exist gear. *the three winners have found the beasts*
For additional Clues send an email request to email@example.com
Watch the video and look at all the pictures above to soak up more clues. Good luck, and keep your eyes peeled in the future for Exist and his ever-watching barrage of vigilant eyes scattered through the city.
p.s. If you go there's a darn good chance you might be eaten by the hell hound that guards the entrance. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Words, Photos & Video by Wes Bruce.
Thanks Chadwick Gantes for additional help.