SAMO© graffiti appeared in NYC from 1977 to early 1980. They were short phrases, in turns poetic and sarcastic, mainly painted in downtown Manhattan. The tag has been primarily associated with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, but was developed in collaboration with his high school friend Al Diaz, and a few others. Diaz had previously been part of the New York graffiti scene, using the tag ‘Bomb I.’ Later Basquiat took on the tag himself, creating some non-graffiti work on paper and canvas with it, just before and after killing off the SAMO graffiti by painting ‘SAMO IS DEAD’ around the streets of downtown in early 1980.

Basquiat claims the name was first developed in a stoned conversation with Diaz, calling the marijuana they smoked ‘the same old shit.’ The character of SAMO was first developed by Basquiat, Diaz, and Shannon Dawson while they were students at City As School high school. Basquiat took the lead in the project, selling a false religion, in comics made in high school. The concept was further developed in a theatre-as-therapy course in upper Manhattan (called ‘Family Life’).

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