SEEN, whose real name is Richard Mirando, is a renowned graffiti artist who gained prominence in the 1970s as one of the pioneers of the New York City graffiti scene. He was born in 1961 in the Bronx, New York, which is considered the birthplace of graffiti and grew up in a neighborhood where graffiti was prevalent. Today Mirando is considered one of the most influential and respected graffiti artists in the world, and is often referred to as The Godfather of Graffiti.
Through his life, SEEN has been an advocate for graffiti as an art form and has collected and preserved graffiti artworks from around the world. He has been involved in public speaking engagements, workshops, community and educational programs related to graffiti art and hip-hop culture. He has shared his experiences, insights, and techniques with aspiring artists and enthusiasts, contributing to the preservation and education of graffiti art as a cultural phenomenon. Mirando has also authored books and publications that document his artwork, experiences, and contributions to the graffiti and hip-hop culture. His writings provide insights into his artistic process, techniques, and the evolution of graffiti as an art form.
Mirando started his graffiti career at a young age, using the tag “SEEN” as his moniker, and quickly gained recognition for his innovative style, elaborate lettering, and bold use of color. He became known for his large-scale graffiti pieces, known as “pieces,” which often featured complex designs, 3D effects, and vibrant colors. SEEN was also one of the first graffiti artists to use characters, such as cartoons and comic book figures, in his artwork, adding another dimension to his work.
He was a prominent member of the Crazy Inside Artists (CIA) crew, which was one of the first graffiti crews formed in New York City. CIA was known for its innovative and influential graffiti art, and SEEN was one of its founding members. He later joined other crews such as United Artists (UA), which included Duster, Sin, and his brother Mad, and Soul Artists (SA) as well.
His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, and he has collaborated with numerous brands and artists. Among them are Harley-Davidson, who he teamed up with in 2015, to create a custom-painted motorcycle as part of their “Art of Rebellion” project. His art adorned the motorcycle, showcasing his unique style on a different canvas. In 2013 he teamed collaborated with Adidas, to create a limited edition line of sneakers featuring his artwork. The sneakers were part of Adidas’ “AdiColor” collection and featured his iconic graffiti style on the shoe uppers, showcasing his unique lettering and vibrant colors. In 2011 it was the iconic cognac brand, Hennesy’s turn. SEEN created a custom-designed bottle for their “Very Special” limited edition series, where his artwork adorned the bottle, incorporating his graffiti style and adding a unique artistic touch to the packaging. He also teamed up with Converse back in 2010, to create a limited edition line of Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers. The sneakers featured his distinctive lettering and design, adding a graffiti-inspired twist to the classic Converse silhouette.
Besides the above mentioned collaborations, he’s had his hands in numerous art-related projects, including designing album covers. In 2011 he teamed up with fellow graffiti artist Futura 2000 to create the deluxe edition cover art for the collaborative album “Watch the Throne” by Jay-Z and Kanye West. SEEN’s artwork is featured alongside Futura 2000’s artwork, creating a visually dynamic and eclectic design for the album cover. In 1988 he designed the album cover for Ice-T’s second studio album “Power“, which featured his renowned graffiti-style lettering and artwork, with bold colors and intricate designs, capturing the energy and attitude of Ice-T’s music. In 1983 he created the album cover for Iron Maiden’s fourth studio album “Piece of Mind“. The cover depicts the band’s iconic mascot, Eddie, as a graffiti character painted by SEEN, adding a unique urban edge to the album’s artwork.
The above mentioned are just a few examples of the album covers that Seen has created throughout his career.
SEEN has also had his hands in vairious projects involving films and TV shows. In 2016-2017, his artwork was featured in the Netflix series “The Get Down,” which depicted the rise of hip-hop and graffiti culture in the South Bronx during the late 1970s. His graffiti pieces were used as set design and background elements, adding to the visual authenticity of the show’s portrayal of the early days of hip-hop and graffiti. In 2016-2018 he created the artwork foremother Netflix series, in the form of the popular Marvel Comics-based television series “Luke Cage“. His artwork was used as set design and background elements, adding an authentic and visually striking urban aesthetic to the show, which was set in Harlem, New York City. In 1983 SEEN’s artwork was also featured in the seminal graffiti documentary “Style Wars“, which was directed by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant. The film, which is considered a landmark documentary on graffiti and hip-hop culture, features SEEN’s graffiti pieces, showcasing his artistic talent and contributions to the graffiti scene in New York City. In 1983 his artwork was featured in the now, iconic “Wild Style” film, directed by Charlie Ahearn. The film, which was one of the first to depict the burgeoning hip-hop and graffiti culture of New York City in the early 1980s. And last but not least, the cult classic film, “The Warriors”, from 1979, which was directed by Walter Hill. Here SEEN also created several graffiti artworks, adding to the gritty, urban atmosphere of the story about a New York City street gang trying to survive and make it back to their home turf. These are just a few examples of the movie and TV shows that Seen has been involved in throughout his career.
Despite the illegality of graffiti, SEEN’s work has garnered critical acclaim and recognition in the art world, elevating graffiti from its underground origins to a respected form of artistic expression. He is considered a pioneer in the graffiti art movement, and his legacy continues to inspire and influence contemporary artists and street artists around the world.
All photos are by Richard “SEEN” Mirando.