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In Memoriam

Groundbreaking Houston graffiti legend dies as a mystery: Taggers remember a badass rebel

NEKST's work is found throughout Houston, where the artist cut his teeth in the latter half of the '90s. (Crawford and Elgin, northwest corner) Photo by Tyler Rudick
NEKST, warehouse
Graffiti artists from across the country are contributing to NEKST memorial located at a soon-to-be-revealed site in Houston. Courtesy of GONZO247/Aerosol Warfare
Work on the dedication started this past weekend. The memorial site will be announced shortly. Courtesy of GONZO247/Aerosol Warfare
NEKST, warehouse
Commuters on 59 will recognize NEKST's work on a warehouse across the freeway from Minute Maid Park. Photo by Tyler Rudick
NEKST, warehouse
NEKST, warehouse

The graffiti world lost a giant with the death of NEKST — the prolific street tagger who got his start in Houston during the mid 1990s before making his way to the New York big leagues with the notorious Mad Society Kings crew.

As one might expect, there's not much in the way of biographical information about an artist whose career requires him to spend much of the time dodging police. And information about his death is equally sketchy with local artists saying they don't want to get into the cause.

"You know you're badass when half of your peers want to write with you and the other half wan ts to fight you."

Glasstire listed his name simply as "Sean" in a recent obituary while the Houston Press, which gave him its 2003 award for best graffiti artist, noted only that he began working in 1996 under the moniker "Next" and that he served a short but artistically-busy prison sentence in Dallas.

After that, details of NEKST's life and untimely death remain a mystery to those outside the tightly-knit graffiti community. Luckily, the rest of us are left with countless monumental works the artist plastered across the globe from EaDo to London.

"These days, it's all about using the Internet to get you name out to the world," Houston graffiti writer GONZO247 tells CultureMap. "But for NEKST, he decided to just write his name on the world."

GONZO, who'd known the artist for nearly two decades, recalls some of NEKST's early tags — one of which can still be seen covering a warehouse fire escape across from Minute Maid Park just east of the 59 freeway.

"He used to write in this crazy silver and black wildstyle before moving onto these bigger and bigger projects," Gonzo says. "Through the years, he inspired a lot of people and gained the respect of a lot of graffiti artists.

"You know you're badass when half of your peers want to write with you and the other half wants to fight you."

NEKST was known not only for his large and intricate murals, but for his ability to create them in the most challenging of terrain. "He wouldn't just climb a billboard and tag it, he'd cover the whole thing," GONZO says. "It's that kind of work that made him so well-known among graffiti artists."

This past weekend, as a tribute to the artist, graffiti writers gathered at a memorial site in Houston to re-create their own versions of a NEKST piece. The location of the dedication project will be announced in the near future.

Click here for a 100-photo NEKST memorial from alt-art magazine Juxtapoz.

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