The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2022

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JUNE 2022 Issue
In Memoriam

A Tribute to Lance De Los Reyes

Edited by Brian Belott

Portrait of Lance De Los Reyes. Pencil on paper by Phong H. Bui, from a portrait by Richard Burbridge for <em>Office Magazine</em>.
Portrait of Lance De Los Reyes. Pencil on paper by Phong H. Bui, from a portrait by Richard Burbridge for Office Magazine.
“Life is not merely what it seems to be. Hidden from our eyes by the cloak of materiality is a wonderful world which only the eyes of the dreamer can see and the soul of the mystic comprehend.” — Manly P. Hall, The Ways of the Lonely Ones (1922)

Brian Belott


ROOT is what I called Lance
ROOT is what Lance called me
sometimes this word would morph into Rudy, Rutabaga, or Rudeboy
mostly we would spot each other in a room and scream

I love that we called each other the same name, brothers joined together working towards an identical aim,
the production of capital-A Art.

What is the ROOT of Art?
Lance would shout HEART

I met Lance at Donald Baechler’s studio in 2006
I don’t have a brother and didn’t ask for a brother but before long, Lance and I were Roots working towards
the Fruits of Maestro Baechler’s studio.
We were proud parts of a timeless guild of apprenticeship.
We worked side-by-side, played, philosophized, argued, sang, and danced around our job for over a decade.
The vibes were not always chill.
Anyone that knows Lance knows his passion could quickly turn into a shouting match BUT the depth of his passion,
as far as I have seen in the Artworld is unparalleled.
The Artworld, shields up and masks on, a thunderdome of game playing.
In my mind’s eye I see an image of Lance with his heart in his hand, his arm
–outstretched– his heart leading the way.

This guy was a Renaissance Guy
an Athlete, A Sculptor, A Painter, a Dancer, an Actor, a Poet, a Protector, a Prankster, and
about ten other things
that don't have names.
Poet tops this list.
Words were his swords.
As Artists we know words are inadequate, words are clumsy
words are stones we rub together that occasionally glow
words are approximations, agreed upon lies
But what extraordinary feats Lance took to use words
He would dissemble them, cut them, combine them, fuse them

misspell them
respell them
reversing the curse

Lance would climb high and scrape the sky with his words, locating the biggest, public canvases in the city
for poetry—billboards and buildings
On full display his philosophies were a public service message, a gift to the collective unconscious

Though Lance is a very playful guy, when it came to his billboards he did not play
His words aimed in one direction and that was the mystical, The Mystery
Not unlike how the Egyptian Gods of the dead measured a mortal heart against a feather
He based his judgment of Art, Poetry, or a character on a scale of whether the message or person would or would NOT echo in Eternity
he would say “did you see that show of whomever in Chelsea? That’s not gunna echo in Eternity!”
                           “did you see Maestro's new painting in the studio?!?! THAT'S GUNNA ECHO IN ETERNITY!!!!”

I will leave you with this last Lance lesson:
He would often tell me that a true Artist is cursed, cursed to be an Artist, cursed to reveal the will of Gods and
Goddesses, the Devil, and even Aliens
Lance’s vision was ancient and expanding through many Universes
He would further explain:
The Artist’s job was to simultaneously reveal and protect The Mystery
What a delicate dance to do
To reveal and protect The Mystery
Lance did this daily
Lance continues to do this
AND I Thank You


Angela Gentilcore
Lance De Los Reyes

Courtesy Angela Gentilcore.
Courtesy Angela Gentilcore.

I do not remember when I first met Lance. Surely it was at Donald Baechler’s studio where we both worked, me for thirty-seven years and he probably around twenty.

He was someone who was always around my life, though, it was only in the last four years or so that we became very close friends. With the usual hubbub of activity halted in the studio because of COVID, only a few of us remained so we talked a lot. Our friendship developed into daily phone calls where our rambling conversations sometimes went on for hours. He usually called me early in the morning and began each call telling me his plans for the day. And they were big plans … always. I knew that I wasn’t so much of a sounding board so much as Lance was just speaking his ideas out loud, starting his engines. But I was a fan, in a motherly way, encouraging and supporting his moves. I respected his artwork and poetry and knew he had a timely message to tell, about the sacred, mystical, animal vibrations, mastery, male and female energy, unifying head and heart, prayer, natural order, cosmic caretaking, birth, death, and love.

To make these paintings, however, was a struggle … to find a studio, to pay for a studio to muster the fight daily to be seen and heard. The struggle was real. Yet he overcame all of this and found focus in the last few years of his life, producing stunning paintings and sculptures. By the end of the day, I would often get a text message image of something he did … a street sculpture, or tag, or painting, and he would say “What do you think, Ang?” I like to think that our daily calls helped to keep that momentum going as I was a big fan but it was all him. His tremendous force and will. I just sat back, amazed.

This poem by Nick Cave was how he lived and why he needed to create.

All of our days are numbered
We cannot afford to be idle
To act on a bad idea
Is better than to not act at all
Because the worth of the idea
Never becomes apparent until you do it.

Sometimes this idea can be the
Smallest idea in the world
A little flame that you hunch over and
Cup with your hand and pray
Will not be extinguished by
All the storms that howl around it.

If you can hold onto that flame
Great things can be constructed around it
Thing that are massive and powerful and world changing
All held up by the tiniest of ideas!

Courtesy Angela Gentilcore.
Courtesy Angela Gentilcore.

I cannot finish this letter about Lance without mentioning the ocean-deep love he had for his children, and all children. He spoke of them so often and believed they are beautiful little beings with magical powers to be healers in this damaged world. He loved playing with them in the playgrounds and they loved him too. This says a lot about a man, I feel, that children want one’s energy. His “golden smile” was his greatest superpower. May he bless us all from the other side of the veil, where I suspect he is networking and working the field as only he did in his life—climbing and swirling through with his hand reaching out to others. Miss and love you, Lance De Los Reyes. Thank you for expanding my life and my heart.

With gratitude and respect,
Angela Gentilcore

P.S. I see you everywhere.

Anna De Los Reyes

While I have much to say about my husband’s work, I’m sure I cannot give it the justice it richly deserves. Lance was intensely devoted, grounded, and committed, while being wildly estranged and out of this world. Fully comprehending someone with such a nature is almost impossible, but no less worthy of our attempts.

Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.
Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.

I think most that knew him closely would agree that Lance was somewhat like a heyoka, fascinated by his own mortality. Perhaps this is why he carelessly flirted with it, but in my heart I do not believe this to be his truth.

Lance was painfully aware that monsters can be seen as sublime, and with this he set out every day to strike a fortunate rhythm in his work to combat his own darkness. The attitude was never “when thy kingdom come,” because he saw the kingdom laying before him every day and knew the right tools to use so he could contribute. His faith in his experience against the monolithic system was his Holy Grail. It was an immense gift to experience him radiate this strength. The memory of it alone is enough to consume you. What I know for certain is that Lance loved very hard, and lived very hard. Not even in his death would he release himself from his bond of servitude. Life was not and could not be quiet for him, but he made life better for us. The ethereal passion he felt transcended into visual gifts that will remain forever, rightfully shrouded by its own mystery but ever present. Thank you, my love.

Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.
Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.

Bailey Williams

I went with Lance on one of his billboard graffiti missions one night. We drove out late to a blank billboard in Queens off the highway and I stayed on the street to keep lookout. He began climbing up the ladder and made it about halfway up when his glove slipped off his hand and he fell four stories to the ground; it was a bad accident that could have easily rendered a human immobile for life or worse. Lance was walking normal and riding his bike around the city in about a month, already planning his next mission like nothing had ever happened. The recovery was a miracle that left the doctors speechless. It’s that kind of fearless energy that made him so special, his will to persevere at all costs, as well as the infinite lengths he would go to for his work despite the consequences.

This sheer will to succeed is apparent across all his bodies of work and modes of creation. From his paintings, sculptures, performances, graffiti, and occasional ventures into music there is a common thread that weaves them together cohesively. Some of my favorite artists in the world demonstrate this quality in their work, and Lance had it in spades. He possessed a high sensibility and confidence that allowed him to be able to fully develop these multiple bodies of work.

Bailey Williams and Lance De Los Reyes at Donald Baechler’s studio. Courtesy Bailey Williams.
Bailey Williams and Lance De Los Reyes at Donald Baechler’s studio. Courtesy Bailey Williams.

Lance taught me so much about art and what it means to be an artist. He believed in hard work and persistence as an avenue to achieving the title of a great artist. He was one of the hardest working artists I have ever met and one of the most honest. He was incapable of making work that went against his moral codes. His respect for masters and those who came before him was beautiful, as was his allegiance to those who helped him along the way—such as his longtime mentor and friend Donald Baechler. A true poet and a great artist, Lance embodied the essence of freedom.

Chris Martin
Lance De Los Reyes

Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.
Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.

I was a huge fan of Lance De Los Reyes long before I met him. I was in awe of the giant painted poetry by RAMBO that I was seeing all over the city. I especially admired the billboards he had painted with enigmatic slogans surrounding the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Tamara Gonzales and I had long conversations (when stuck in highway traffic!) wondering who had the nerve and courage to create these mysterious spiritual poems hundreds of feet above the city?

Meeting Lance did not disappoint. He had the physical beauty of a serious athlete and radiated an intense energy and hunger for art. We began exchanging studio visits and trading drawings and paintings. I remember visiting him in February in an old unheated Chinatown loft he shared and we made collaborative paintings on scraps of canvas and talked and talked—after a few hours I was shivering with cold but Lance was fine; he seemed to actually radiate heat.

Later, Lance proposed collaborating on a billboard—and he took two six-foot vinyl star paintings of mine to attach to a RAMBO poem piece. I loved the idea—the six-foot paintings would look like postage stamps from the highway—and he started explaining how he was going to get me up on the scaffold to fix them in place. The more he talked about how it wasn’t really that dangerous—he had a spotter with a phone and we would carry gallons of paint and the rolled up paintings strapped to our bodies—the more worried I became. I flashed back to one of his stories about almost falling to his death from a rooftop—holding on by one hand, swinging above the street … I felt too old and afraid to climb tall ladders in the middle of the night and it never happened.

I have always been inspired by the great graffiti culture that surrounds me in Brooklyn—and I wonder how many “gallery artists” risk arrest and their lives to make art. Lance was arrested many times and was lucky to stay out of jail. Legal troubles forced him to stop tagging as RAMBO and he changed his moniker to Viper—continuing to make street masterpieces. He straddled both worlds—and was fearless and extremely ambitious, both in the studio and out in the world. The last several years he found a synthesis in the studio paintings of color, images, and text with his own natural graphic energy. He became the great artist he always wanted to be.

I didn’t see Lance these last few COVID years as I was mostly isolating out of the city. The last time I saw him he seemed so full of life with his wife Anna and with his son Roman on his shoulders at Tamara’s opening at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery…

I will miss him.

Donald Baechler

Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.
Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.

Eddie Martinez

One of many billboards I’ve seen in that sharp, dagger-like text. Usually done in white-on-black, black-on-white, or in this case red paint on white background.

The way it’s written reads as one long word, “NOFEARRAMBO.”

It doesn’t matter whether the artist meant for that or if it just happened that way, perhaps because he was dangling way above the highway?!

It’s hard to know, and sadly now we are left to guess.

To me it feels very warlike, as does a lot of what he evokes, that battle energy. Gods, leaders, rulers, and followers. It’s a really dive-in-first-see-if-you-live-later style. No time for pauses and breaks in grammar. No time for worrying about cops down below or the fact that if he falls he’s fucked, just time for getting it out as fast as possible.

RAMBO billboard over the BQE. Photo: Jake Dobkin/Gothamist.
RAMBO billboard over the BQE. Photo: Jake Dobkin/Gothamist.


Years back I remember when he did one on the BQE that seemed to be dedicated to art world agitator Stefan Simchowitz, which was interesting to me, but mostly in the way they all are, that they are some kind of journal entry, a note about what was going on with him at the time, maybe he had a studio visit with the guy or sold him some paintings, again an unknown. But that’s how I’ve always read the ones where he names a particular figure as opposed to a more obscure “MASTER YOUR HEART.”

Then there’s the one that says Julian Schnabel and under it the quote, “KNOW GODS JUST WORK.”

Maybe here he’s telling us to stop putting anything other than the work on a pedestal. Even gods. Nothing really matters if you don’t work.

From what I have witnessed, and continue to enjoy on an almost daily basis, he left us plenty of work and some instructional notes.

Lola Schnabel

My original introduction to Lance, aka Sir Lancelot to me, was through Donald Baechler. Lance was an artist working in Donald’s studio.

Immediately it became clear to me that Lance was a night in shining armor. He was more than an apprentice; he was a profoundly spiritual man who had a way of accessing the spirit world and sharing his experiences through his work which shares many profound and cautionary tales.

In his vast body of work, one can see the code of ethics he embodied. The symbols of shields, swords, and snakes which come to life on his canvases are symbolic of the mythology he drew upon to survive life on the streets of New York City.

I will never forget his powerful and intense glare. It was inescapable and demanded your attention. But beyond his gaze, I recognized a human being who was always wisely assessing the world around him and decisively determining how to enable others and create justice. Especially for the artists he knew. He could help us rise above our inner struggles and blockages. If you called on him, within hours, he was ready to motivate and free you of apathy and disenchantment through his chivalry, generosity of spirit, and empathy.

Lola Schnabel and Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Lola Schnabel.
Lola Schnabel and Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Lola Schnabel.

I watched him countless times take the train to Long Island to set up an art studio in a nursing home for Geri, Nemo Librizzi’s mom.

He assisted Edit DeAk, who lived on the same floor as me, at the Chelsea Hotel and in Donald Baechler’s old apartment. He liberated her, cleaned her home when she couldn’t, and gave her a sense of order.

To those who did not have the privilege of knowing him personally, Sir Lancelot appeared menacing. His thirst for life and passion led to addictive behavior at times and left little energy for politeness. He was a man of frankness.

If his eye was on you, I used to joke you were “lanced”—that intense glare could cut like a knife through any façade.

I am grateful to have known him and to have shared a part of my life with him. When he needed a studio in 2009, and I was working in an abandoned building on Mott Street, I let him share the space, and eventually, he made so much art that he took over another floor with Curtis Kulig, the “love me” artist. And while together on Mott Street, Lance stretched my canvases and cleaned the entire studio like a soldier for art.

He was also one of the most physically agile men I have ever met. He would scale the building to check on me late at night, and I would see him suddenly on the fire escape watching me and scream in shock.

He would randomly appear on the Chelsea Hotel roof like my personal security guard.

We had a pure relationship, and I will forever honor our time as holy.

He called me goddess, believed in my work, understood the pressure I faced in New York, and understood the challenges of my life as an artist.

The last time I saw Lance was at the entrance of Canada Gallery in TriBeCa. I can still see his eyebrows lift above the crowd and his eyes so bright that the light of his stare made the entire group fade away into his aura.

I love you, my Rambo, and will see you in the spirit world you shared with us so elegantly.

Joe Bradley

I first met Lance maybe ten years ago. He introduced himself to me at a coffee shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Lance was an intense character and I remember being a little scared of him. There was something cat-like about him that put me on edge. After we met, I began to notice his graffiti around town, especially the enigmatic poetry he was writing on vacant billboards above the BQE. The next time I bumped into Lance, he invited me to visit his studio in Chinatown. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I encountered there surprised me. The place was filled with greasy oil paintings of muscular barbarians armed with battle axes. They were awesome. Lance told me a story about a crow that would fly in the window to keep him company while he worked. I left with my head spinning. A couple of weeks later, Lance gave me a painting, a killer picture of two “grey” type aliens in an embrace. I was touched by his generosity. I only met with Lance a handful of times after that, but I always enjoyed seeing him, and came to know him as a dedicated artist and an open hearted and gentle soul. Happy trails Lance.

Lance De Los Reyes’s “Gold Teeth Project” for <em>Office Magazine</em>, Spring/Summer 2020. Photo: Richard Burbridge.
Lance De Los Reyes’s “Gold Teeth Project” for Office Magazine, Spring/Summer 2020. Photo: Richard Burbridge.

Josh Safdie

Lance believed art and artists needed protection. The type of protection reserved for medieval towns and villages. If he found a way into a piece of art, he became a part of its creation forever. It became sacred to him … The way a soldier bares arms to defend his country, Lance built arms to spiritually protect what was important to him. This included his own art … it also included his friends and any of their creations. With Lance, you were safe … you were also incredibly in danger, but at least you felt you were safely in danger together.

He saw me as a soldier … something that filled me with great confidence. He’d give me patches to wear and paint guys slaying snakes and dragons and speak me into their epic oral narratives. One night, we ordered food to his studio on Mott Street … I pulled out my cash—which was wrapped around a bunch of cards—and he said, “Nah sting, you can’t treat your money like that.” I laughed. He said, “You need a sheath for that weapon.” I told him I liked having my cash loose. He said, “What good’s a gun without a holster? At the time, he believed money was a weapon and, just like weapons, it can be used for good and bad…

A few days later, we met up and he pulled two Eagle Creek wallets from his jacket:

“Pick one stinger.”…
“I saw you didn’t have a wallet, so I gripped these for you, take the one you like.”
“Where’d you get ’em?”
“Oh, I boosted them. [That loud Lance laugh, huh-huh-hah!] I didn’t know which one you’d like, so I grabbed ’em both.”

I took one and he took the other.

Thanks to RAMBO, every time I pay for something, I feel strong and powerful.

Courtesy Josh Safdie.
Courtesy Josh Safdie.

Noah Khoshbin

Lance reminded me of my father. I never told him he did. Once we talked about how I am older than my own father now and how one can “know” that but can never “feel” that. Lance, being younger than I am, said, “Maybe your father is in me” and put his hand on his heart.

Lance had more presence and madness than anyone else in the room. I felt that madness, so I asked Lance if he knew of poet Theodore Roethke.
He said, “No … but maybe I know his words.”

So I recited his words—


Lance asked me to say them again, which I did


He asked me to say them again, which I did


He asked me to say them again, which I did


Lance did not respond. He just walked away.

In 2019 I invited Lance to the Watermill Center in eastern Long Island to realize one of his largest projects.

Installation views of Lance De Los Reyes’s work from the Watermill Center’s 26th Summer Benefit. Courtesy Noah Khoshbin, Curator/Watermill Center/New York.
Installation views of Lance De Los Reyes’s work from the Watermill Center’s 26th Summer Benefit. Courtesy Noah Khoshbin, Curator/Watermill Center/New York.

Lance and I were working together in an anonymous collective, as well as on a long term project to preserve and present his skull. These are scans that we had made. That project continues…

Lance De Los Reyes's
Lance De Los Reyes's "Gold Teeth Project." Courtesy Noah Khoshbin, Curator/Watermill Center/New York.

Onyx Collective

Dear Lance,

Thank you.
You made it all seem possible.
Like a bridge to past times before my days, you carried a torch that shined bright for me to see.
You seemed to always pop up, on foot, or on your bike, when I really needed support on the journey.
Heart over Head.
Thank you for the shehnai, the duduk
Thank you for believing in me and Austin.
We will carry on with you in our heart … the PEAK has yet to come!

Robert Nava

Lance De Los Reyes’s sculpture and sage. Courtesy Robert Nava.
Lance De Los Reyes’s sculpture and sage. Courtesy Robert Nava.

Lance De Los Reyes tagging for Jumanji, Robert Nava’s cat. Courtesy Robert Nava.
Lance De Los Reyes tagging for Jumanji, Robert Nava’s cat. Courtesy Robert Nava.

Robert Nava and Lance De Los Reyes, 2017. Courtesy Robert Nava.
Robert Nava and Lance De Los Reyes, 2017. Courtesy Robert Nava.

Lance De Los Reyes, <em>Bast Call Me It’s RAMBO I Was Here (11:15 PM)</em>, 2021. Courtesy Robert Nava.
Lance De Los Reyes, Bast Call Me It’s RAMBO I Was Here (11:15 PM), 2021. Courtesy Robert Nava.

Robert Wilson
For Lance a man who


Back in the day when we were young, CHIE started making his mark in San Diego. He tagged CHIE and painted an “upside crown” meaning no kings and hinted at an equal playing field where we were all brothers and sisters, no man above the rest. Interestingly fitting for a man whose last name is “of the kings.” CHIE would soon leave San Diego and jump up to San Francisco and caught wreck with a new moniker, RAMBO. After a few years in the Bay he dropped out of college and saw an opportunity to head east. He landed in the Big Apple and within his first month, met those he needed to bump heads with, including myself. Early 2000s, the height of downtown culture, everyone who made an impact were all in one room as the DJ spun joints that got the crowd activated. From the corner of my eye comes a long haired, brown skin handsome man wearing a bandana just like Rambo in the movie. He pulls my shoulder down and whispers in my ear, “We are supposed to meet.” Thinking of this encounter now some fifteen-or-so years later, I’m still in shock that he chose to appear out of nowhere and make such an impression in that very instance. I still ask myself, “We were supposed to meet? … Say’s who?” Why is a good question when magic seems to be the answer. RAMBO was in the house and wasn’t leaving no prisoners behind. He was a magician. At that moment I was absolutely mesmerized. Who the fuck is this guy and why does he look like Sylvester Stallone in the movie Rambo?

He took me by storm and right away we started exploring the city and its highs and lows together. We made history. SABIO and RAMBO were the first graffiti writers to tackle and destroy a line of BQE billboards. No one in graffiti history left their mark hundreds of feet up in the sky like we did. Driving to JFK or LaGuardia airports you were hit with huge poems and block letters starring you down from a mile away creating our own currency and attraction on any given rush hour. An advertisement could cost 100,000 dollars to run for the year and here we are climbing up to paint these massive white canvases for free, or for the cost of our own lives. We would have five to ten billboards running at once, a revenue of close to a million dollars. One night as RAMBO painted a poem twenty feet above me as I short stepped along a thin rail that suspended in air, the only thing below me were cars racing up and down the BQE. I started to feel paint drops on my head and clothes and looked up to see RAMBO holding on for dear life with his chin strapped to the top of the billboard. He would paint poems upside down and couldn’t look to see where his feet were stepping on and apparently this particular billboard was missing its guide rail. He stepped over to write the next word of his poem not realizing he was stepping into the night’s air, smashing down his chin to the top of the billboard and hands holding his paint. That's how insane RAMBO was. Instead of letting go of his paint to lift himself back up to stabilize his position, he used his chin instead. The paint drops I felt from above falling down on me like a summer’s night rain wasn’t paint. It was his blood.

SABIO and RAMBO billboard over the BQE. Photo: Jake Dobkin/Gothamist.
SABIO and RAMBO billboard over the BQE. Photo: Jake Dobkin/Gothamist.

Another time he would be with our friend Frenel, who was documenting our night adventures, when RAMBO missed a step on his way up the ladder falling twenty feet down to a roof where he broke ribs, a hip bone, and fractured his leg. Then, six months later, healed from injury, he was back up in the sky painting massive messages. Clearly he was unstoppable. No other human on planet earth is like him. That’s how unique and rare this mad man danced and stormed his way around everything and everyone.

After many nights and close encounters with death, I am here to write this, one of the last warriors within a culture only a few understand and one of RAMBO’s closest confidants. I am my brother’s keeper.

RAMBO soon became SPY 33, NOVA 77, WARLOCK, ALIEN, VIPER, PUNK 77, and DRAGON. Most graffiti writers choose one name and stick to that name, RAMBO was too big for one name. He was a magician on Monday; a fine artist having studio visits with reps from Gagosian on Tuesday; a father playing in the park with his son on Wednesday; a poet reciting words from a subway tunnel underground on Thursday; a graffiti writer with eight names all over the city on a Friday; a mad man casting spells on a Saturday; and then Sunday, the day of rest, he was a husband, father of three beautiful children with a smile that still pierces my heart to this day. RAMBO A.K.A. Lance De Los Reyes was just like his name lived up to be…

I have so many stories to share and tell that obviously wouldn’t fit here within this publication. I’ll have to write a book one day. Perhaps the title in big block letters is The Magician.

I love you with every breath, your right hand man,

Shepard Fairey

Courtesy Shepard Fairey.
Courtesy Shepard Fairey.

I was hit hard by the passing of my long time friend—and often partner in crime—Lance De Los Reyes, aka the graffiti artist RAMBO. When I say “partner in crime,” I don’t mean that metaphorically, but literally much of the time. There is a strong bond formed when you take shared risks as graffiti and street artists. You have to look out for each other. Even if I am a little older, and sometimes served as a mentor, when you are watching each other’s back on the street, all is equal in the name of protecting the mission. Lance and I have a long history. I met him in San Diego in ’97 when he was maybe nineteen. He was bombing under the name CHIE and was up in a bunch of ill spots. He came up to me at a DIY art event with his wide-eyed, unfiltered personality, and I was charmed. Lance was both feral and sweet. We started doing street art together in San Diego, LA, San Francisco, and, in 2000, I took him to NYC for the first time. He fell in love with the city instantly. On that trip he painted the upside down crowns for a while as a tribute to Basquiat, and made the crown upside down to say “there are no kings.” We did street art night and day for three days and I remember Lance literally pounding his fist against the hardwood floor at 4 a.m. on night three when he was fighting against sleep. We napped for two hours and then started bombing again. Eric Elms was with us and can verify this story. Lance was the most fun, fearless, and spontaneous bombing partner ever. Unfortunately, he was also reckless. He totaled one of my cars and later got another impounded for thirty days. I remember at an art show he co-curated, titled Modest Behavior (inspired by the band Modest Mouse), Lance chased about ten big guys from a rival graffiti crew around with a hammer. Ten-to-one are not good odds, even if you have a hammer, but somehow Lance escaped with only a few bruises. I was amazed how he seemed to have nine(plus) lives and land on his feet despite living a wild life. I guess we can only play Russian roulette for so long before our luck runs out. Lance wasn’t just impulsive though. He could be very thoughtful. Look at his poetry billboards on the BQE and listen to the song he wrote and sang “No Monkeys On Our Backs” which is on his Instagram. It has the style and humanity of a Woody Guthrie song. Lance had been making his best art ever over the last couple of years and I was very happy that he seemed to be in a healthy groove. I guess it didn’t last. I texted Lance shortly before he died when my wife Amanda and I went to see Modest Mouse, but he did not reply, which was unusual. I had introduced Lance to Modest Mouse back in ’99 when he was living in a tent in my yard (the bedrooms in my house were taken). Lance would come in to take a shower in the mornings and sing Modest Mouse, out of key, at the top of his lungs. Lance, I always think of you when I listen to Modest Mouse and I always will. Thanks for the good and bad times … I’ll miss you. Rest In Power.

Courtesy Shepard Fairey.
Courtesy Shepard Fairey.

Stefan Bondell

Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.
Courtesy Anna De Los Reyes.

American shaman warrior, De Los Reyes, Of the kings
Poet of the bill, board
LIE. Lie. Tracks
Blue, Red, Black, White, Yellow, Green
Dried friend fried today, died in a way
Purple Heart heavy metal, a Friday thirteen
Ice Blue rainbow, Stains the low
Pain grows, Flames rose, Rain from bow
Dew on the blade of grass
Snakes, scorpions, dragons
Sculpture of weapons, and weapons make sculpture,
Bombing, axe, spear, hook, shield, saw, chain, bag, flag,
pipe, bandana black, red rag, forehead
Forest green Jackets all real. It is hunting season
Xavior, X the savior. BQE, BBQ, T P D
Chief, for the band, bandits, vandals
Manage the vanish. Roman Empire
Banned, banished, take advantage, is just your vantage
Any color you want. Letters were his own
Poems, bones, Tats, tomes. Lone Ranger, Danger, anger, Never languor
Could fall a hundred feet and live off a
Billboard In this jungle
Rambo, His tags around his neck, My Respects
Mystical shaman warrior, moral compass, the gorier the glory of chain, bat, spray, drip, brush, hands, piece of wood, fence, tense, self defense, cage, vents to help his brothers, friends, sisters, spit words, stretchers, bars, bards, canvas carrier, dark air craft carrier, dark, darker corner, spark warmer, cover the raw canvas in your prime, babies, with ladies, marry her, merrier, marred, city tarred respect for gods, poets interpret laws,
man to his real friends, honor that his breath call you brethren, strangers, anger, painter, bangers, anchor, kids, bids, sins, served
cold, din, dim, revenge
No prejudice. Pre the high judge, ice, gold teeth, in skull, for the height of high arts, falls dead leaves, dream weave, sons are princes, slayers, daughters, cares, flares prayers
Grateful, gratitude, attitude, junk the punks, barrels not tin
Gas can, trash can, spray, paint, wood, rock, brick, stone, acid
Out come vultures, Drugs, plugs, dig, dug, rigs, jigs,
Lot of talk, Quit, lit, Fentanyl, Pen to the quill, Men do kill
Roller, Spray, Marker, One culture, Cali to Texas, Seattle down,
New York to downtown, pop pigs, scalp wigs, corker,
orange spills, Indigo, Triumph of the will
Will, means committee, commitment, Commission
Pass the pitch, the fork, ditch in the road
Grab arms, warriors in the tunnels, fortress, palace, doorways
The moats, coats, prime and primer, papa, poppies,
Ayahuasca, peyote, needle, run wrong coyotes, old g, fall followed cold breeze, Carbon, grown, Skull, bones,
Drugs do kill, people use them. No confusion
Flowers for the children, our own
Villains, building, billing
Lawyers, loiter, exploiter, moisture for voyeurs, fakes, shakes,
dealers real deal, not machine, take out machines misinformation
Elevator, escalator, hater, teleport, hologram, hollows gram, halo grand sacred,
will not miss, mrs, Now you been informed

He showed, and showed up, shooting gallery, hole in the wall, sprayed, brush, drip, outside of it under it above it
Inside In the basement, no replacement,engraved in the pavement, bathrooms, Stab wounds, studios, metal gates, nothing is great, but have some grace
Speak brother, speak blood, fam, brethren words, laws, lessons
He wanted to sacrifice animals on the floor of the gallery
told him just to paint them well
Each letter is a painting . Each word is a poem.
Wanted to frame his own skull with the gold teeth of eternity
Billboards, a scroll on highways of the city palace
Live infinite in the minds eye, night riders inspired
Wires, wired, fired up, ready to fire
This reality show, a heartbreaker. Take out the piñata
Black bats, metal holder, shank, rank, walk the plank or get smack by it, throw a coin for a wish, a riot
The heavens gave you the lotto, eternal grotto, gratis, grateful, gratitude, attitude, compliments for accomplishments, confidence, competent
immortal cause you had morals
You do not want to be, You are what you are
Painter, poet, graft, graffiti, Off the graph, no staff,
Rulers,apprentice, menace, Sweet sugar, venom
Maestro, Master, mental, always tension
On the posts, postal. Cut him off before the sentence
BQE, Park wall, Fame wall, Bathroom stall, At the mall,
On the faces he mauled
Rambo, de Los Reyes, Of the kings, freedom it tunnels
Any wall, canvas, paper, rock, scissor, shoot, stone funnel

We walk in laid footsteps on natives graves
In the field or cement, one, never ran, run over
ruins, fire, stay human, all the same death looming
Our brother forever, And We are his,
Poet, painters do it for the centuries, the infinite
it was an honor, we carry on with the man of honor,
and now It is our turn to carry your canvas, words, children, letters
until We are carried on.
De Los Reyes, of the kings,

Vito Schnabel

I met Lance when I was twelve years old. He was an incredibly sweet man and a very loyal friend. The last time I saw him was at his exhibition last summer. Lance had outdone himself; his paintings had really evolved and it was clear that his vision was materializing in the work in a powerful new way. There were references to Max Ernst, Man Ray, and Wifredo Lam, but Lance’s own hand united everything. I am so thankful I got to spend that time with him.

It was extremely moving to organize an exhibition of Lance’s work this past January with his wife Anna—an honor. Lance is so greatly missed, and it’s important that we continue to share his legacy.

Lance De Los Reyes, Untitled, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 64 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.
Lance De Los Reyes, Untitled, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 64 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.

Lance De Los Reyes, <em>Guardian Council I</em>, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 96 x 84 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.
Lance De Los Reyes, Guardian Council I, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 96 x 84 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.

Lance De Los Reyes, <em>Casting Agent to the Initiates</em>, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 60 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.
Lance De Los Reyes, Casting Agent to the Initiates, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 60 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.

Lance De Los Reyes, <em>Vision our youth protected by the history they respect</em>, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 102 x 138 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.
Lance De Los Reyes, Vision our youth protected by the history they respect, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 102 x 138 inches. © Estate of Lance De Los Reyes. Courtesy Vito Schnabel Gallery.

The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2022

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