Randy “KEL1ST” Rodriguez is an original, a pioneer, an innovator from the old school. He began writing his name on the trains before mastering the letterform and transforming two dimensions into three, as he has created KEL1ST Jewels: Custom Like You, a line of jewelry and accessories that use the letterform as artwork. His clients include everyone from Madonna and Mariah Carey to Debi Mazar and Afrika Bambaataa.
Born and raised in New York City, KEL1ST was one of the masters of the “Wild Style” lettering of graffiti of the late 1970s. Featured in the cult classic film “Style Wars,” KEL’s work became a part of the cityscape, as his whole train masterpieces ran along the sides of MTA subway cars from 1977-1987.
At the same time. KEL exhibited his work in some of the most historic galleries of the period including at OK Harris (1979), Fun (1980), Sidney Janis (1982), all in New York, as well as Joy Horwich (1983), Chicago. His work is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. KEL takes time to speak with The Chic about his love for the letterform.
KEL1ST recalls, “The motion of ‘writing your name’ was an early introduction for me to what later became the world of graffiti. My mother taught me to write my name as early as 4 years old, using pencil at first, like most children but the curiosity of writing with other tools was inherently there. I used to look at everything around me that had a printed word and wondered, ‘How did they do that?’ I would then try to recreate the letters I saw either on my cereal box or the packaging from my groceries, usually these were the closest things to me. I then began to trace the shapes and learned how to spell and read…this began my fascination with letters and words. It also taught about composition, the words had taken the form of logos (Kelloggs and Goya are two favorites).
“This opened up my eyes to the world of commercial design I learned that logos were fun and interesting for me. A ‘natural’ progression to graffiti as I viewed it through the same lens, logos and packaging with messages. There was a seed planted in me with the logos I saw and mimicked as I developed my interest in graffiti. The flow of letters were exciting they had ‘life’ and a meaning to them, even more when I used a brush. The texture that a brush rendered was a fascinating visual it seemed to give it the ‘life’ and emotion I was moved by. This emotion lit the fire that drove my desires to practice, practice and practice some more my letters, and words taking every opportunity to draw a letter or a whole word as ‘fancy’ as I could.”
Read the full story at THE CHIC.