He was born Giuseppe (Joseph) Palattella, but he would become “DON 1, M.A.F.IA.”
The Italian-American teen from Queens helped put the borough and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT) subway lines on the 1970s graffiti map. Decades later, a new book hopes to rediscover that legacy.
One of his fans, Louie, “KR.ONE,” Gasparro, brings back to light the now-reclusive artist in “DON1, the King from Queens: The Life and Photos of a NYC Transit Graffiti Master.”
During the mid-80s Gasparro, who knew DON 1’s brother, asked him if DON 1 would be interested in collaborating with him on some murals in Astoria. But he turned him down.
Gasparro, a graphic designer, painter and musician, tried to reach out to DON 1 again in 2002 to interview him for a graffiti website. After a year and half of phone conversations, the two finally met in person.
“He was unaware of how influential he was,” Gasparro said.
When they met, DON 1 came up with the idea for the book.
The special thing about this book is it documents the graffiti on the BMT lines, which ran through Queens and other boroughs, Gasparro said.
“When the world found out about New York City [graffiti], they found out about the Bronx and Manhattan,” Gasparro added.
DON 1, born to Italian immigrants, was artistically talented from a young age. In 1973, he was accepted into Manhattan’s High School of Art & Design.
There, he was first introduced to the world of graffiti artists or “writers,” as they preferred to be called.
“He was right at the cusp of the beginning of it,” Gasparro said.
“DON 1 still is, without argument, one of the true BMT/IND masters that pushed the aesthetic envelope beyond its scope,” one of his contemporaries, Lee Quinones, writes in the book.
Along with remembrances from fellow writers and DON 1, the book is full of vivid photos of the work of DON 1 and other graffiti artists. DON 1, as a photography major at Art & Design, thought it was vital to document his art.
DON 1’s illustrative and photography skills landed him jobs with several magazines after high school.
But his creative path changed in 1978 due to a psychological condition, which DON 1 details in the book, and leading him to his now reclusive life.
Yet, the inventive artist still lives inside of him, Gasparro said. And his influence will likely always loom large on the writers of the era.
“There is no one better to represent Queens than DON 1,” Gasparro said.
Gasparro will be signing copies of the book at the Astoria Bookshop, 31-29 31st St., at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 29.
For more information on the book and related events, visit http://krstorm.com.