“A Spy Goes Rogue”
–The Wall Street Journal
This is not any ordinary street art book, ‘XCIA’s Street Art Project’ is a historical documentary that is four decades in the making. Hank O’Neal, the CIA agent turned photographer, began collecting ‘new information’, street art and graffiti from around the world that started in the 1970’s.
“The first pictures I did on the graffiti project were in 1976. There was a Tareyton cigarette ad all over the subway and for some reason it made everyone angry. There’d be 20 ads up for soap suds or beer, but the only ones that would be defaced would be these cigarette ads. I went from station to station and took three or found hundred photographs of the ways people had attacked this one ad. That’s when I started paying attention to things on walls.”
–Hank O’Neal to AmericanPhotoMag.com
Hank O’Neal is not only a talented photographer. A few years back I began to see a paste-up of ‘XCIA’, an urban graphic of a guy dressed in a ‘Men in Black’ suit taking a picture. At that point he was no longer an admirer of street art, Hank O’Neal was street art.
I am sure you can imagine the excitement I felt when I received a message from the accomplished artist ‘Army of One’ that my work was also in the book. He invited me to join him and another gifted artist, ‘TooFly’, to The Strand Book Store on Broadway to create a mural for the promotion of the Hank O’Neal book. The next day I had the honor of meeting Hank O’Neal, his assistant, Ian, the publisher of Siman Media Works, Ken Siman and Fred Bass, the owner of this iconic book store. I showed Hank my sketch and said, “you’re about to get Fumeroized”.
I worked for 5-6 hours for two days. It was a great experience painting at this prime location, only 2 blocks south of Union Square and near the NYU campus. Many people came by to voice their appreciation for what I was creating. How rewarding it is to have people going about their business but yet take a moment to stop, look and say thing’s like, “beautiful” and “I love my city”.
The Strand Book Store plans to keep the murals up permanently, and that is an honor.