Rest in Peace: Johnathan Estes

The Houston arts community is mourning the loss of one of its own this week. Johnathan Estes, executive director of the Southern Artist Foundation, died early Tuesday morning. Estes was well known for operating Montrose Proper Art Gallery on Westheimer and Kingspoint Community Art Lab, affectionately called "The Mullet," an art warehouse located behind Almeda Mall.

According to, HPD patrol officers were called on Monday night in response to a shooting at 10900 Kingspoint in Southeast Houston. The victim, later identified as Estes, suffered from multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

More »

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Graffiti Artists

Photo by Marco Torres
My first Houston Graffiti photo, November 2006.
It was a cool, sunny November afternoon back in 2006 as I was driving down Harrisburg Boulevard on the east side of Houston, when a series of colorful patterns flashed through my rear-view mirror. I circled around to an abandoned shell of a building that consisted of three walls and a few support beams where the roof used to exist. Along the walls was graffiti by such H-Town legends as Jade, Colors, Weah, Prime, Bekit, and Kaze. Having recently purchased a used DSLR, this would be my first encounter documenting graffiti in Houston, a project that continues to this day.

The last year Best of Houston® included the "Best Graffiti Artist" category was in 2010, with GONZO247 taking the top honors. A lot has happened in the Houston graffiti scene since then, with wheat paste artists gaining fame and traditional art galleries embracing the culture. Here is our list of the top artists still showcasing the art on the Houston streets:

10: Howie

Howie's style is clean, fast, and fun. From fill-ins, tags, trains, and rollers, he constantly hits highly visible spots and seems to shift around the city with ease. Plus, his monster face character that lives in the last "e" is whimsical with just the right amount of menacing.

9. Abels

Photo by Marco Torres

This young menace was the virtuoso of illegal graffiti in Houston a few years back. Hitting spots other graffiti contemporaries only dream about, Abels ran the city and quickly rose to King status here and across the country.

Story continues on the next page.

More »

EYESORE and give up Team Up For a Street Art Gallery Showcase

photos by Marco Torres

To evolve and adapt. In the world of street art, those factors are as important for success as the development of a unique aesthetic and consistent output. You gotta stay up. As street art hits the galleries, the same is true. When the idea of a joint showcase first hit artists EYESORE and give up earlier this year, the venue of choice was the now shuttered Domy Books.

Now that the duo has found a new gallery for their latest works (Cardoza Fine Art,1320 Nance), we spoke to EYESORE in anticipation of this weekend's opening for a preview of the show:

Art Attack: What lead to this collaboration between yourself and give up?

EYESORE: Besides being friends, we hold the same interest in the dark, ugly, and misunderstood subject matter, whether it be animals or people. We are the same in that respect, always riding around and seeing inspiration for our works hidden in the dark.

More »

Breaking Taboo: A.G.R.O. and the Art of Human Suspension

Photos by Angelica Leicht

As I sat against one of the graffitied walls at the Kingspoint Mullet, watching the beads of sweat creating pools under the chin of a shirtless guy straddling a chair, I had to wonder if all of the sweat dripping from his brow was due to the miserable Sunday afternoon heat. Surely part of it was fear. I mean, I was sweating for him, and I wasn't the one who was seconds away from having metal hooks shoved into the flesh of my back.

As the piercers took aim, his brow furrowed a bit more, his eyes closed and the room grew eerily silent. And then, with one swift movement, it was done. Two three-inch spots on his back now bore metal hooks, mechanisms from which he'd soon be supporting his body weight as he hung from the rafters of the Mullet. Willingly.

It was my own preconceived notions about suspension, and perhaps about the people who practice it, that led me to tag along for a meeting and performance with the A.G.R.O. "family." Even as a person with extensive tattooing, and even with what I like to think of as a relatively open mind about body art, I still couldn't wrap my head around the idea of a person hanging from the rafters by his skin. Just couldn't do it. What in the world was suspension? And really, why were folks doing it?

More »

Rest in Peace: Nekst, a Video Tribute By His Brother, Vizie

Losing a family member is one of the most painful experiences that anyone could possibly live through. Losing a best friend at the same time is downright tragic. When Houston-raised world-famous graffiti artist Nekst passed away this past December, those who knew him and his extensive body of work felt extreme heartbreak and sadness when hit with the news. Yet none of us can begin to imagine the intense sorrow that his family has endured, especially that of his brother.

Vizie paints masterfully vibrant pieces and comically illustrated characters that capture the imagination of graffiti admirers across the globe. He created his own style, altogether different from his brother's but never too distant. Both brothers are regarded as masters of their craft, kings of the graffiti art world.

Earlier this week, California-based creative lifestyle clothing company LRG released the following video tribute to Nekst, which showcases Vizie paying his respects through the medium he knows best: paint.

Rest in Peace, Nekst.

More »

Rest In Peace: Nekst, Houston's Most Successful Graffiti Artist

Photos by Marco Torres

To be successful in this crazy world, a person needs to have talent and determination. Some individuals exhibit natural talent, but are limited by their lack of drive. Others are blessed with a sense of purpose and a strong work ethic, but lack the talent that is required to achieve those goals. To have both is a gift that is reserved for only the most special examples of humanity.

And now, one of those special ones has passed on.

His name was Nekst. He was the most successful Houston artist that most outside of the graffiti world have never heard of. His style was bold. "My work has always been about scale and visibility," he once stated in an interview. For each of his pieces, his choice of structure, colors, size and location was always meticulously planned, legible and in high traffic areas.

In the graffiti world, there is a status pyramid. At the bottom you have the Toys, beginners to graffiti who have not yet earned respect nor established their art or name beyond a fundamental/amateur level. At the top, you have the Kings, who have established themselves as the best of the best through years of hard work, determination, talent and aligning themselves with other great graffiti writers.

Nekst was an All-City King. Everywhere he went, he did it big and owned the city with his graffiti. He started here in Houston. His crew here is/was DTS (Def Threats). He went on to New York City, but also hit New Orleans, San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and many other great cities along the way. He became part of the MSK crew (Mad Society Kings), which includes some of the best and most notorious graffiti artists in the world. He began writing his name as Next in 1996, then evolved to Nekst.

Perhaps his best and most traditionally artistic work was done during a six-month detention in a Dallas-area prison, during which he drew dozens of touching and contemplative portraits of his fellow prison inmates with simple pencil and paper.

We offer our condolences to his family and crew. May he forever rest in peace.

"At this point I just tell people I'm from America. I've lived in and painted in every region in this country. I've been writing graffiti for 18 years and have always been significant to every city I've lived in. I try to make sure that what I make is as large as possible and always legible. I feel like you aren't succeeding if you arent making civilians want to start painting. " - Nekst

More »