United Graffiti Artists

United Graffiti Artists (aka UGA) was an early American graffiti artists collective, founded in 1972 by Hugo Martinez in New York City.[1][2] UGA was the first organized group of writers, and the first to promote graffiti as a high art.[3][4][5] Martinez, then a student activist at City College of New York, organized a group of teenagers who had been tagging the subways [6] into a loose collective, formalizing their work and paving the way for commercialization.[7] In September 1973, UGA organized the first ever gallery show of graffiti at the Razor Gallery in SoHo.[8][9][10]

According to authors Cori Anderson and Kevin Jackson, the artists of UGA elevated the profile of graffiti, bringing it from the subways and the streets to art galleries and studios.[11][12] Henry Chalfant, a sculptor from New York City said "United Graffiti Artists (UGA) and Nation of Graffiti Artists (NOGA), marked the first attempts to organize and legitimize writers as artists."[13]

Early members of UGA included PHASE 2,[8] SJK 171,[14] TAKI 183,[15] HENRY 161 (Henry Medina),[14] and MIKE 171 (Mike Hughes).[6]


  1. ^ Vivien Raynor (March 3, 1991). "ART; 'Hip Hop' Moves Closer to Respectability". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  2. ^ Penelope Green (April 10, 2005). "Using Graffiti as a Decorating Tool". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  3. ^ Gottlieb, Lisa. (2008). Graffiti art styles : a classification system and theoretical analysis. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-0-7864-3436-7. OCLC 228608106.
  4. ^ Miller, Ivor (July 1993). "Guerrilla artists of New York City". Race & Class. 35 (1): 27–40. doi:10.1177/030639689303500104. ISSN 0306-3968. S2CID 144157165.
  5. ^ Castleman, Craig. (1982). Getting up : subway graffiti in New York. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-03089-6. OCLC 8476629.
  6. ^ a b Jordan Riefe (June 21, 2018). ""Beyond The Streets" Harkens To Graffiti's Roots In Diversity". LA Weekly. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  7. ^ Kristen Tauer (December 5, 2019). "Art Basel Miami Beach 2019: Museum of Graffiti Opens in Wynwood". WWD. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Jon Caramonica (December 20, 2019). "Phase 2, an Aerosol Art Innovator, Is Dead at 64". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  9. ^ Peter Schjeldahl (September 16, 1973). "Graffiti Goes Legit—But the 'Show‐Off Ebullience' Remains". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  10. ^ Ula Ilnytzky (February 3, 2014). "Graffiti art highlighted in NYC exhibition". Associated Press. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  11. ^ Kevin Jackson (May 20, 2001). "Reading graffiti". Prospect. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  12. ^ Cori Anderson (February 13, 2017). "MCA-Denver Debuts Its Biggest Opening With Gritty And Uncensored Exhibit". 303 Magazine. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  13. ^ Chalfant, H. 1992. “No One Is in Control.” Pp. 4-11 in Vandalism: Research, Prevention and Social Policy, edited by H. H. Chistensen , D. R. Johnson , and M. H. Brookes . Portland, OR: Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Vandalism: research, prevention, and social policy (PDF) (Report). United States Forest Service. 1992. doi:10.2737/PNW-GTR-293. hdl:2027/umn.31951d029749434. S2CID 158966695.
  14. ^ a b Liz Ohanesian (May 22, 2018). "Exploring The Evolution Of Street Art". GOOD Magazine. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  15. ^ Thomas, Sean P. "Celebrating Street Art in a Chinatown Warehouse". Los Angeles Downtown News - The Voice of Downtown Los Angeles. Retrieved 2019-12-29.