Itvan Kébadian TWE crew, 20 years of graffiti.
Very young, at school ... (famous song)
This is the story of a guy or rather two guys. One is called Itvan. The other is called Sem'G. Itvan is the real first name of Itvan Kébadian, Sem'G is the blaze of his classmate. Both guys are 15 years old. They go to (when I say “go to”, just a flirt!), Sometimes, not always, the same college. A college in Paris, in a still popular district at the time. They are in 4th year in different classes. And yet, they meet and become friends.
Two is already a band. No, not a "band", in the world of graffiti, it's a "crew". And a crew begins to exist when it has a name. Like American crews, a crew name has three letters. Two letters are too reminiscent of the initials. Three letters whose shapes should easily be linked together when tagging; you have to act quickly, very quickly, one eye on the tag, one eye on the alert. They make their choice on TWE Because graphically the lines of the letters are linked together well. And because it feels good. Depending on the situation, the interlocutors, the initials may have different meanings. They are free after all to name their crew with three letters that mean nothing! By the grace of language, it suffices to give a name to a group of apprentice graffiti artists for a crew to exist.
The crew founded, in a way, it is necessary to learn the “profession” of graffiti artist. The specialized magazines will be their manuals, their Bibles. They quickly understand what a chrome (simple chrome and wild) is, a theme, a flop and hits. Flop, typo, block, wild, theme hits, and the pinnacle, the perfect theme. Without forgetting, the characters, the decor. All this crossed with the styles (geometric etc.)
Several years later…
Itvan joined a second-option Plastic Arts class at the Lycée Paul Valéry in Paris. In a few months, she undergoes a metamorphosis. 8 students join the crew and it is known. Tables become supports for their expression and for creative play. They are engraved, painted and, depending on their arrangement, offer “paintings” which illustrate the influence of the crew. The drawing of one is completed by another and the constraints generate new drawings on the model of "marabout-end of string". TWE becomes, in Paul Valéry, a group identified by all high school students. A crew with influence and prestige.
End of the second year, TWE is a crew of about ten guys, culturally similar, individually different, who want to have fun in graffiti and dance.
Itvan is moving. He goes to Bayonne. One of the founders, the one who doesn't want to be the chef but who is at the same time the structuring element, the backbone of the crew, and the undisputed leader leaves Paris. Everything seems to condemn TWE: Itvan breaks, Marms redoubles his second to Paul Valéry, SEM'G is to Hélène Boucher. In short, on the horizon black clouds announce the storm.
Begins in first class at the Lycée de Bayonne, a new life. Class buddies become in less time than it takes to say, buddies. Although steeped in the hip-hop movement, they give a special place to graffiti. Itvan resumes his culprit activity, the graffiti. A group forms around him. TWE is reborn from its still hot ashes.
Itvan, the Parisian, in this heterogeneous and atypical group, finds his marks and his place. That of the chief. The crew then had six members: Flow, Deza, Nitch, Mr K., Lazy and Skuz.
TWE bayonnaise version graffiti on the walls of Bayonne but also neighboring towns. Incursions are even made in Spain. In 2 years, first and final, TWE won in the Basque Country. The crew grabs often, a lot and with talent. He acquired an identity and recognition from other local graffiti artists. During the year of terminale in Bayonne, Itvan Kebadian meets the director of preparation for the entrance examination to the Beaux-Arts. The latter seeing the exceptional talent of Itvan offers him to follow the preparation for the competition in parallel with his studies. The director telling him that although in terminal, he can skip the steps and be accepted in the competition. Year marked with the Indian sign, Itvan passed his baccalaureate and the entrance examination to the Beaux-Arts in Bourges.
Itvan completed his first year at the Beaux-Arts in Bourges. The guys from TWE Bayonne continue without him like the old ones from Paris, the friends of Paul Valéry. A paradoxical situation: the TWE Paris continued to graffiti after the departure in the south-west of Itvan; the TWE Bayonne also and sometimes "go up" to paint in Paris. Itvan no longer grabs: he studies. He is doing his second year of studies in Nantes. For the third, he returns to Bourges. This is where he graduated. The fourth year must be done in Cergy-Pontoise, he gives up completing the entire cycle. He prefers to start his career as an artist. Bourges, it's over. He decides to get closer to one of his brothers. He rents an apartment in the southern suburbs, in Choisy-le-Roi.
Paris, the comeback.
Skuz, a guy from TWE Bayonne, spotted a spot in Pantin. This is the disused customs building. Inside the building, Itvan paints giant insects black. Photographs and a short film will give these insects a wide distribution. The most unexpected is the proposal of an architect in charge of a major urban renewal project who asks Itvan to paint several dozen of his insects on a supermarket facade. First professional worksite of the newly created artist. A beautiful project which seems to begin his artistic career and places it under the best auspices. Money that allows you to last several months and devote yourself to graffiti.
It is in the 9-3, while graffiti, that Itvan meets Lask. First collab is going well. A first battle won in the conquest of the suburbs. We are not there but we are moving forward!
One day, which, in retrospect, was a beautiful day, They paint a fresco in Cormeilles Park when the photographer from Blazing, a magazine specializing in graffiti, particularly shoots a character from Ivan, a B-boy. The editorial staff makes it its cover. The cover of a magazine, the reproductions of his frescoes ended up making Itvan known in the restricted world of Parisian graffiti. Itvan painted more and more often with Lask. This relationship goes beyond the complicity of two graffiti artists who paint together. An unprecedented situation arises: Itvan and Lask paint in the 9-3 and in Paris, Deza and Skuz complete the pair. The three Musketeers who are four like at Dumas hurt, they are good. And the months go by, get even better.
The productions, the frescoes, follow one another at an infernal pace. Regularly ironing your fresco, conquering new walls, painting perfect themes on huge surfaces, gigantic blocks, flops everywhere are markers of the power of a crew. Rare, indeed, are the crews who can compete in quantity of productions and quality. Painting a perfect theme on walls more than 50 meters long and 3 meters high is a collective work. Few crews have the human resources to do this.
In addition, by multiplying the works, TWEs acquire remarkable skills. The cutting of the large frescoes in, characters, lettering, decorations, involves artists who, in this field, are specialized. This “division of labor” is a factor of quality. Each person's expertise is combined to serve a collective project. The "little guys" of TWE become experts through intense practice. In the opinion of all observers, TWE has reached a peak in the field of deep graffiti. A Himalayas! An Everest whose improbable conquest remains in the history of contemporary urban art an inaccessible acme.
All in all, the intense painting activity, the regrouping of summer tours, the sharing of a story made of rap, music, breakdance, deep graff and baston will strengthen the group's cohesion and create the conditions, in internal, to excel in the world of graffiti.
The specialized press will publicize their productions and give the floor to the leader, Itvan Kébadian. From 2008 to 2011, TWE asserted itself to be the most productive, the most powerful, the most recognized crew in France. The numbers give the spin. In 2011, a pivotal year, the year of their Austerlitz sun, the crew painted more than 400 frescoes. Or more than one per day!
The explosion of the supernova.
If TWE is no longer a constantly expanding galaxy, stars of singular beauty have been born, heir to the previous period.
Veans, designer prodigy, has a tattoo parlor. Flow is a figure of street art. As for Itvan and Lask, from the start the most political guys in the crew, they created political events, the Black lines, which extend their collaboration by integrating new street artists into a community of ideas.
The crew like a chrysalis has transformed. Today it is more a network than a collective of artists. The rules decreed by Itvan no longer apply. The frenzy of conquest has subsided. There are still threads like those of a spider's web that bind men together. Threads which converge towards the center, towards Itvan Kébadian. He embodies the epic of TWE: a group of young artists who have taken graffiti to a peak of incandescence.
The creation of Black Lines.
The Itvan Kebadian-Lask duo has changed, because everything changes. Their complicity, their unwavering friendship united the two artists around a common base of convictions. Convictions which led them two years ago to paint political frescoes. Carried, initially, in a denunciation of police violence and the little case made in the suburbs by successive powers, they went from the status of spokesperson for young victims of police blunders to the more political status of public accusers making the trial in their frescoes of triumphant neoliberalism and its excesses.
The Black lines are a response by urban art artists to the wanderings of the power in place: the control of the media by large capitalistic groups, the precariousness of work, the absence of an ecological policy, social inequalities, impunity of the powerful, the explosion of poverty among the "last of the ropes". Black lines events accompany the struggles. They are multiplying, in Paris, in Nantes, in Marseille. The artists gathered on topical subjects do not form a crew or a collective. On the initiative of two TWEs, who wants to come and paint what he wants. The organization is reduced to its simplest expression: publicizing the event, finding a wall. It would be abusive even to speak of self-management because the group has no existence in itself and management does not exist! Street artists who share the same anger meet punctually for the time to paint a fresco.
The story of TWE is one example, we can find others, of an informal group of teenagers who fell into hip-hop at an early age. For these teenagers who became men, hip-hop was more than a culture. It has been a way of life. Culture was not "an extra soul", the hip-hop movement and its activities, its state of mind, have been at the center of their lives for 20 years.
Itvan Kébadian embodies this story, a story of more than 20 years of graffiti, from the creation of a particularly creative crew to the original functioning. The story of a young artist who knew how to transfer his academic learning to graffiti and street art, develop his themes and put his talent at the service of struggles.
Richard Tassart, July 7, 2020.
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