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Manifested Destiny

"Graffiti is built around the notion of fame," says Adam Smith, aka Codak, a local graffiti writer.

How do you know you're famous? When people driving to work or waiting to catch the trolley suddenly find your name on their lips. And so it is with TM, a spraypainted tag on walls and sign posts all over the city. TM, which appears with graffiti or sometimes stands alone, represents the crew Thoughts Manifested.

"When I first came here [from Portland], there was no graffiti scene to speak of," says Smith, recalling his years as an art student at the University of Memphis. He began doing graffiti locally and attracted the attention of writers from other Mid-South cities.

"The original members of TM were from Nashville and Knoxville. There was Rex2, Jeka, Zoom, and Nutsack," says Smith. "Some of these guys have stopped writing now, and there are new members of the crew such as Paco and Audroc."

Smith is not as active as he once was, but graffiti is "one of those things that is never going to leave me," he says. These days he works as a graphic designer in Memphis and has pieces on display at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art as part of "Brooks Introduces: Off the Wall."

"I may not be getting out on the streets as much, but when you put graffiti in a different context … they come to understand it in a new light."

Codak's work, to the uninitiated, can seem like a chaotic swirl, a hyper-intricate form that has little resemblance to the letters C-O-D-A-K. Part of the thrill of graffiti, however, lies in its elitist legibility. "I can travel the whole country — the whole world — and learn to read peoples' pieces, to pull the shapes and letters out," says Smith.

So next time you spot a TM, look a little closer; there is a new world waiting to be discovered. 

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