On Saturday, longtime Lower East Side artist Arturo Vega, who was sometimes called “the Fifth Ramone,” died at the age of 65. Vega, the Ramones’ artistic director, designed the band’s iconic logo and was a crucial source of support in the mid-70’s. Joey and Dee Dee Ramone lived in his Bowery loft for a couple of years. The news was first reported on the Facebook page of Legs McNeil, the author of “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.”
Vega was part of a collective called the Antagonist Movement. This month, Raul Ayala and other members of the collective went to work on a mural on Extra Place, where Fourth Arts Block has an ongoing public art project. The inspiration for the mural is a poem written by Dee Dee Ramone after Joey’s death. It was given to the artists by Arturo Vega.
Curator Keith Schweitzer told us the project is still “in progress.” The recent damp weather has slowed the artists down some. The poem describes Joey’s spirit as a dragon riding through the blue sky. If you’d like to see what’s been done so far, there are quite a few photos on Ayala’s web site. Schweitzer said one of the artists working with Ayala, James Rubio, was apparently with Vega when he passed away. They were attending an art exhibition in Chihuahua, Mexico, Vega’s hometown.
“From the beginning,” Spin Magazine noted in a tribute over the weekend, “Vega’s t-shirts, silk-screened with the logo, provided the Ramones with their most consistent source of income. In later years, he became the band’s most devoted archivist and historian, as well as an insightful pop-culture observer.”