Louie Gasparro first fell in love with graffiti when he was 9 years old.
The Astoria native was attending a Yankees game in 1974 at Shea Stadium while Yankees Stadium was being renovated and saw his first piece scrawled on a wall.
“When I saw graffiti going to a Yankee game I was like, ‘What is that?’ Gasparro said. “I was 9 years old and my brother was like, ‘It’s a bunch of punks with spray paint.’ And then I became one of them.”
Gasparro officially started doing graffiti when he was 11, tagging subway tunnels and train yards in Astoria, Ridgewood and the Bronx with his tag KR. ONE. Though graffiti was and still is considered a form of vandalism by some, Gasparro said he and his friends viewed it as a sport.
“It was a very expressive thing for me because we were competing with guys from all over the city on who could be better at this underground thing that really nobody knew about,” Gasparro said.
He describes his work as “pop eye meets Black Sabbath meets Led Zeppelin meets graffiti.” Gasparro has also toured the country and the world as a drummer with popular bands including hard rock/punk band Murphy’s Law, hip-hop/rock group Lordz of Brooklyn and Blitzpeer.
He credits Astoria with influencing his art in several ways: he saw graffiti on the elevated trains running near his house on Broadway and 31st Street; he watched bands play, including Astoria-based Murphy’s Law, and collected album covers for inspiration; and he started drawing in Astoria classrooms at a young age.
“I saw graffiti, I heard music, I played sports and the neighborhood completely informed me about all of the things I love,” he said. “I lived around the corner of Kaufman Studios and saw movies being made. So all of this energy was going on around me and I was absorbing it all.”
On Oct. 28, “Kolor Storm: The Art of Louie “KR. ONE” Gasparro” will be released on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The 160-page book chronicles the artist’s life and art through the years – from his first subway pieces to more intricate illustrations showcased in galleries.
“It’s a whole life’s worth of creativity I can show to people,” Gasparro said.
The book, which showcases his “razor-like precision of line work,” can also be used by aspiring graffiti artists as a reference book, he argues. It includes more than 400 paintings, tags, album covers and train pieces dating as far back as 1977 and as recently as last year.
On Oct. 7 and 8, he will attend New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javitz Center and on Oct. 21, Gasparro will have a book signing at Midtown Comics from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Though his book showcases his graffiti work, Gasparro said he was heavily influenced by cartoons he watched as a kid and wants to bridge the gap between the two art forms.
“Kolor Storm” is his second published book. His first book, “Don1, the King from Queens: The Life and Photos of a NYC Transit Graffiti Master” was released in 2014 and chronicles the work of iconic Queens graffiti artist Don1. It took Gasparro nine years to publish the book and is the most comprehensive source for Giuseppe “DON1” Palattella’s subway work. Palattella hailed from Astoria and attended the High School of Art and Design.
“The common denominator which transcended race, culture, whether you were poor, rich, polka dot, silver, Greek, Italian [was] a can of spray paint and a magic marker,” Gasparro said.
In addition to promoting his book, Gasparro is also working as a producer and actor on a television series called “Pale Blue Light.” The series centers on two brothers who inherit their father’s failing hip-hop record label. Eddy Duran wrote and directed the series and many scenes were shot around Astoria.
To learn more about Gasparro’s work or to purchase a book, visit his website.