IZ THE WIZ Rest In Peace


On June 12, the graffiti artist Iz the Wiz had a rare show of his work at the Tuff City graffiti and tattoo studio in the Bronx, in which he spray-painted a mock-up subway facade with his bubble-letter “Iz” repeatedly. “You would have these pieces running like this 10 cars straight,” said Iz the Wiz, whose real name is Michael Martin. “When that hit the train station, bam! Impact. No doubt about it.”

The original premise of the subway facade was that it would be painted over and over again by different artists, similar to the brick walls in Tuff City’s backyard, which have attracted graffiti artists from around the world.

Brian Dwels
Iz the Wiz’s final work became a site for a candlelight vigil after his death.
Then plans changed. “It was weird,” said Joel Brick, the owner of Tuff City, who goes by the name of MED. “He had the show, then he went back to Florida and five days later he died.”

So that subway facade is now considered the last work that was done by Iz the Wiz, arguably the most prolific graffiti artist, and was the site of a candlelight memorial service several days after his death.

Tuff City employees are deciding how to preserve the panels — whether to donate them to a museum, make them part of a traveling exhibit or disassemble them for galleries. Inquiries about the panel have come in from around the world.

“We’re not sure what is going to happen with it yet,” Mr. Brick said. “We just know it is not going to be painted over.”

Smokey Ferrer, a Tuff City employee who goes by the name N.B., said: “It was a part of graffiti history. I was standing right there. At the time I already knew he was pretty sick, he didn’t have that much time here.”

Mr. Martin had kidney disease, which he believed was caused by exposure to all the aerosol. There were questions about whether he would even do the show. “He wasn’t looking good,” said Teddy Ferrer, who uses the nickname PACK.

Once he died, on June 17 from a heart attack at age 50, Mr. Martin’s business partner asked the studio to stop selling any of the works.

Tuff City employees are proud to have hosted his last show, which attracted visitors from around the world.

“I’m happy that he went out with a good turnout, that he had respect and admiration from a lot of people,” said Mr. Brick, who was among those that grew up under the influence of Mr. Martin’s work. “He was a legendary figure in his era. The amount that he did was crazy. You’d have to go out every day. You have to live your life doing this to get the amount that he did at one time.”