The New York-based artist Lance De Los Reyes has died, aged 44. The artist, who used the moniker Rambo, was best-known for his graffiti depicting upside-down crowns, a tribute to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the cryptic poems he painted on billboards and buildings across New York City. More recently in his practice, the artist had focused on large-scale abstract paintings.
De Los Reyes was born in Texas and studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. He worked with Shepard Fairey in Southern California starting in the late 1990s and traveled with Fairey to New York in 2000. In a statement published last week, Fairey recalls that he and the artist “did street art night and day for three days, napped for two hours and then started bombing again”.
“Lance was the most fun, fearless and spontaneous bombing partner ever,” Fairey adds. “Unfortunately, he was also reckless. Lance had been making his best art ever over the last couple of years, and I was very happy that he seemed to be in a healthy groove. I guess it didn’t last.”
The curator and art dealer Destinee Ross-Sutton, who organised a solo exhibition of the artist’s work this summer, says De Los Reyes was “a most remarkable being on a very clear mission, who didn’t make art for money and saw himself as a messenger trying to tell us something—to open our eyes”.
The artist had a major exhibition at The Hole in 2014, titled Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, which included a series of paintings on raw canvas. The show was organised as his text-based graffiti (containing text like “Master Your Heart” or “Julian Schnabel KnowGods JustWork”) became ubiquitous in New York City.
Ross-Sutton says the artist died on 6 November but the cause and time of death has yet to be determined. “There are some unconfirmed rumours but, per the police, it’s an ongoing investigation,” she says. “I’m disgusted by the amount of emails, direct messages and phone calls I’ve been getting since last week from people already wanting to buy his work.”
She adds, “Lance was by no means finished with his work, his mission or his calling. He still had so many plans he wanted to materialise.” His family has started a fundraising campaign to celebrate the artist’s life and support his children.