“I have to say something with my art” – Graffiti Artist ATOMS from NEW YORK

For ILOVEGRAFFITI.DE editor and author Jonathan Drexler caught up with graffiti artist ATOMS in New York while painting a wall. Jon brought an interesting write up to give an insight behind the meaning of ATOMS´ work:

When getting off the L train at Jefferson in Brooklyn, a cursory stroll through the street will lead you down a path of varying graffiti pieces and street-art inspired murals. While the most prominent presence to the eye is that of an organization known as “The Bushwick Collective,” many artists operate and exist in the area as an independent entity. One of those artists is Adam Fujita (@AdamFu), who writes ATOMS. As a graffiti writer, ATOMS has been in the game since 1992–originally out of the Bay Area, San Francisco. With nearly a dozen walls to his credit around the Jefferson stop, ATOMS shows a versatility between pieces and larger scale heaven spots that focus more on the execution of throws and clean painting techniques.

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Historically, it is important to note that hip-hop has it’s origins as a voice to the voiceless. Back in the day, all forms of the expression made it a point to collaborate against oppression of minorities. One of hip-hop’s first protest naturally became the state of politics. An earlier target was former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch; due to his goal of whitewashing trains during the height of train era. The idea of seeing “DUMP KOCH,” on a train run across the city was a way of speaking out against the bias of a minority culture.This illuminates that there is something inherently political about graffiti. More than just the politics of throws over tags, and pieces over throws–there is a political and ethical statement behind the idea of leaving your mark on public property that screams “rage against the system!”

With ATOMS’ background in the graffiti world–a seed was planted to use his art for his roots’ purpose–speaking out against the system. ATOMS’ main target to speak out against is the current state of politics in America. A few months ago ATOMS began experimenting with neon-light based messages that reflected his views on the political turmoil from his perspective. In a similar way to raging against the system of Ed Koch removing graff culture from the NYC transit system; ATOMS uses his pieces to speak out against what he (and many people worldwide) considers to be bias and political oppression of minority culture.

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His work is definitely worth following and keeping an eye out for due to it’s purpose and impact being true to the core of graffiti’s conception. I caught up with him on Thursday, February 16, which also happened to be labeled as A Day Without Immigrants. On that day he painted a neon piece that read “National Security,”–aimed at shedding light on the day that was.

To put this into perspective the significance of this piece it is important to note that General Michael Flynn had just resigned for reasons that google and even memes on social media can easily explain.

When asked about the significance of his piece, this is what ATOMS had to say:

“For me as an artist; I feel like it is important to use my skillset to say something. I personally do not have the largest following–even after all these years–but for me, given the political climate we live and especially on a day like today I wanted to use the reach I have to say something with my art. I feel like the neon pieces point to the fact that I want the lights kept on regarding the political climate in our country and world right now. That is what the neon work means to me. We should not agree to be kept in the dark about stuff. We have a right to watch and be in the know. So many people have larger followings than me with the same sentiment and I am surprised sometimes when they do not use their influence to say anything. I certainly respect their choice to not risk how they earn their living. However, for me, I think this is not the time we can afford to be silent. I see some people with very large followings that could use that influence to start affecting some real change. I am all for painting your name on shit–I do it all the time–but it is also important to be talking about things that matter.Movements and change can take place under the umbrella of a hashtag. It is so easy to get involved and be active. Of course, we still make art amidst the political climate. Art, after all, is our secret sauce.”

You can see more of ATOMS’ art with additional insight behind the meaning of his work on his website at and more photos on his Instagram. Also, last but not least, special thanks to Joanna for contributing photos for this article–make sure you check out her page and give her a follow!

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Text: Jonathan Drexler

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