4GIVE YOSELF: R.I.P. Ed Boxx, painter of the Six Year Cigarette and other marvels.

Thomas Crone writes over at 52nd that word is going around that prolific, thoughtful graffiti tagger Ed Boxx has died. People say he was attacked “while painting on the east side.”

Sad, sad news.

[I should pause to say that I AM NOT INTERESTED in reading an argument about the ethics of graf here, and why you think graffiti is 100% always wrong all the time. This ain’t the time or place, so kindly hold your tongue if that’s what you’re after. I will not hesitate to remove comments I find to be insensitive.]

Ed’s work is kinda sorta everywhere. He usually just writes “ED BOXX,” “RED FOXX,” “4GIVE YOSELF,” or “GET UP! GET GOD!” But he has done larger, more complex works, stuff on a level of effort, wit, and skill that one just doesn’t see coming from most taggers around here. I mean it’s one thing to slop one’s name hastily at arm’s height in ugly handwriting, and it’s another to develop signature fonts and characters, and to do occasional all-out installations.

One of my favorite Ed Boxx pieces took up the inside of a Near North Riverfront warehouse. It was a small, two story warehouse, and the only thing Ed painted was the insides of the steel sash windows, such that it looked like cartoon stained glass, the religious scenes replaced instead with stylized cat heads and cigarettes. He only used a couple of colors, I think blue and yellow and green. The limited palette really popped next to the red brick of the building. In good light, the whole piece seemed to slightly glow.

Another favorite took up every window on an entire facade of the Spivey Building skyscraper in East St. Louis. While exploring the building last fall, my friends and I noticed what appeared to be abstract designs in every single window of one side of the Spivey, painted with lilac and white house paint. But once we got outside and looked up, we realized that all those stories of painted windows added up to giantly spell out one of Ed’s aliases (I want to say it was REXX RAM, but I don’t have the photo in front of me, gah!). He had to have thought about that one for a long, long time, and executing something like that had to have been pretty complicated.

Another favorite, albeit one jeered by many, was when Ed edited (ed-ited) the facade of the Orpheum Theater, making it into the ED BOXX Theater.

My feelings about graffiti are complicated, but Ed’s art was something I almost always felt good about. He actually made some really interesting, compelling, thought-provoking pieces. His best works were site-specific pieces that incorporated the location into the work, rather than just the simple throw-up tags that anyone can do. Even when I was preservationist-ily muttering “On terra cotta! That glaze is so delicate! How will they ever remove the paint without damaging it?” I found myself smiling at Ed’s work.

I’ve had a lot of folks say things to me along the lines of “Forgive yourself? What’s that supposed to mean? How is any of this thought provoking?” All I can offer is that it’s kind of like a poem or a really great rock lyric: It doesn’t have to be explicit and obvious to anyone but the artist, to mean something and to make you think. Sometimes the cryptic-ness of the language in and of itself is part of the message.

Even though I never got to meet Ed Boxx, I’ll miss his presence as his tags vanish, one by one, from the city. I get to some fairly hidden spots in the city, but I saw Ed’s work everywhere I went, following me on my travels. You could tell just from where he went that he was really paying attention to the city. I’ll miss walking through some crazily hidden, industrial corner of the Near North Side and stumbling upon one of his works, which has been a small joy for me many times. Running into a particularly thoughtful Ed Boxx tag in a completely unexpected spot feels in a teeny, tiny way like bumping into a friend when I least expected it.

Ed, your presence in the landscape will be dearly missed.

__________________

I don’t have photos of some of his better, more complex pieces, but I have these:


Detail of an Ed Boxx piece in a vacant, notably roof-less building in the Carondelet Coke complex, April 2007.


Palimpsest of Ed Boxx graf and an old advertisement (Not saying I would have modified the neat old ad myself, but I did think the result was interesting). Recently, he seems to have gotten more into this editing of ghost signs.


An unspectacular tag in and of itself, but the location was the walking surface of a completely isolated pedestrian bridge that pretty much no one uses. Coming up here and seeing this tag totally made me grin, full of amused, “What the HELL?” I mean this tag was basically done for a handful of pedestrians walking to/from one of the sketchiest parts of the whole city, and helicopters. Who else would bother? That was part of the joy of Ed’s work.

Edited 4/10/12 to add: As several commenters have noted, Ed Boxx is not dead. The thought that he might’ve faked his own death occured to me when I first heard the news, and it turns out that was indeed the case. I should have waited for clearer news before I published this, but I was so upset by the news that I just wrote. 4give me.

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Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 5:57 am  Comments (17)  
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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very well stated, C.

  2. wow, that is sad news.

  3. Sorry to hear about your lost. My name is Julian Grace and I am a reporter for News Four in St. Louis. I have wrote stories about ED BOX two times. I am trying to find out more about what happened. Please email me at jgrace@kmov.com.

  4. […] Feet has a nice post with some pictures. There are Boxx pics all over the place, but I’m particularly fond of this one, from Vintage […]

  5. dang. I was *just* talking about him to a friend of mine when I found out.

  6. This is horrible! I remember seeing a piece he tried to do on St. Louis and Parnell, I believe, but was interrupted. It’s huge similar to the one along 64. I always wondered how he physically accomplished such humongous displays! And what about those ones under the parapets or cornices of rather tall buildings. I see these frequently on North Broadway. How did he do that!

    He also tagged the Grace Lofts Building maybe a month ago. I was doing research, at the Gelateria one Tuesday afternoon, for my final project and I saw two people removing his huge signature. They had a long power water hose, several feet long. How was he able to do what looked to be a 10 foot display on Washington Avenue?

    This guy not only had large balls to do work in the places and manner he did, both rather dangerous in terms of crime or the threat of police but also physically daunting, but he really gave something to the City vis a vis positive messages and showing that art cannot be defined by traditional criteria.

    The fact that he was able to tag so many visible buildings, whether along the highway in derelict areas or Downtown on Washington, highlights both the abandonment of our city as well as how few eyes we have on the street. All things equal, he shouldn’t have been able to tag these buildings. It shows that the city is not uniformly thriving metropolis. I don’t know why he did what he did, but he meant many things to me and I’ll miss him!

  7. If this is all true it is a huge loss to our community. No matter what your views are about graffiti he did some of the most prolific work this city has ever seen. It takes a lot of balls to go into some of the darkest, shadiest places late at night and scale buildings with fire extinguishers filled with paint and produce what he did. Not many people have that type of drive to do what they love. Ed Boxx was a dedicated writer with a human message that he shared for everyone to see. Whether it was in worst of slums to the most prolific areas in the city. If he has really passed away Rest in Peace. Get up wherever you may be.

  8. So far none of this has been confirmed definitely. Just a rumor until it has been officially confirmed.

  9. btw.. those really tall sloppy drippy ones are done with air pressured fire extinguishers filled with thinned out paint..

    ed box was an all city king and the only writer in st louis who was bringing something unique and different to the table, there is no doubt he will be respect and left up for years, prepare for the worst there is barely anything holding st louis graff scene together…

    and i also just heard that cristo that was also with him and also was shot might not make it either,,

    rest in power ed box

    getup getgod

  10. I hope it is just a rumor … we just had pals in from out of town and they fell in love with the idea of “4give yoself.” We made a game of spotting them all over town and listing all the ways that we could follow that advice. Whether Ed is here or has gone, he’s now in the hearts of one in Utah & one in San Antonio, too.

  11. breaks my heart. i will never forget the first time i saw his 4GIVE YOSELF. i literally stopped my car and smiled.

    he brought a smile to many. the locations and messages just pop out but speak to your heart.

  12. I too have seen Ed’s work over St. Louis, and wonder if there is a story about his passing, if indeed he’s passed!
    Did anyone know Ed’s real moniker? That would be the start of an investigation. I understand his death occurred in “metro-east”, but that’s a huge area. Does anyone have a better location.
    If there’s a story here, let’s get on it.
    Mail me with info. Maybe Ed will!
    Mike Owens at miowens@ksdk.com

  13. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Skilful.

  14. I GOT THE FORTUNATE CHANCE TO PAINT WITH ED ONE FUCKING TIME ….IT WAS IN LIKE DEC OR JAN…HE AND I TALKED ABOUT WORKING ON SOME STUFF TOGETHER…HE WAS A VERY DOWN TO EARTH PERSON ALWAYS NICE TO ME…AND I ENJOYED THE SHORT TIME I KNEW HIM AND IM GONNA PUT HIS NAME UP EVERY TIME I GO OUT NOW FOREVER…..GOD BLESS YOU MY BEAUTIFUL FRIEND AND GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY….MELO-

  15. LOL AND NOW I FEEL LIKE A STUPID ASS,,,FOR THOSE WHO READ THIS FOX AIN DEAD AS SOON AS I WROTE THE FIRST NOTE THEN I FOUND OUT IT WAS A LIE LOL WELL LEAST ED IF HE READS THIS WILL SEE I THOUGHT HE WAS A GOOD GUY LOL IMA STILL REP U THOUGH ED JUS ED BOX LIVES LOL

  16. Eddz not Deadd….

  17. I believe this is also one of his… http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimblahg/2459973835/


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