[New Books] Charting the Massive Visual History of Massive Attack

'3D and the art of Massive Attack' explores the band's visual style, including collaborations with UVA and Adam Curtis.

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Aug 14 2015, 2:50pm

3D in front of 'Everlasting Art' at St Pauls, Bristol, 1986

Massive Attack are a group know for their era-defining albums (Blue Lines, Protection), soundtracking your favorite festivals, and, of course, the misty-eyed, soulful club classic, "Unfinished Sympathy." But one of their members, Robert del Naja a.k.a. 3D, is also a visual artist who, before making music, spent his time as a graffiti artist in his native Bristol in England, spray-painting the same streets that Banksy cut his teeth on. 

"When I was about ten years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard," Banksy says about him. "3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been a good thing for him but was a big loss for the city."

Just recently, record label and publisher The Vinyl Factory released a book of 3D's work which includes his Massive Attack album artwork and covers, tour visuals, unseen stencil art, and his collaborations with Nick Knight, United Visual Artists, and Adam Curtis. Billed as "The definitive visual history of Massive Attack," it also has archive photos from the group's time as part of DJ collective The Wild Bunch, back when they throwing warehouse parties around the St Pauls area of Bristol with their a sound system.

3D's art utilizes a variety of techniques—stencilling, painting, LEDs, paste-up—and has drawn from various influences and styles over the years, including New York hip-hop, magazine culture, politics, Warhol, Basquiat, punk, comic book artists like Jack Kirby and John Romita, and J.G. Ballard. 

A self-taught artist, in an interview in the book he describes how the comic shop was his gallery and that he discovered graffiti art through The Clash and their collaborations with pioneering artist Futura 2000. "My approach was limited—spray paint and do it yourself flyers, Tipp-Ex, Letraset and a scalpel," he says, describing his DIY aesthetic as a street artist and where his style evolved from. "Back then publishing for me was quite literally hanging out in a photocopying shop. But it gave me some confidence as you would get direct feedback from your peers: instant public art."

Check out some images from the book below:


Atlas Air, 2010


Mac Monkey 2 (with Oli), 1993


Peace at Last, 2007


100th Window tour with UVA, 2003


Splitting the Atom, 2009


Fire Sale, 2013


Heligoland, 2010


Massive Attack v Adam Curtis (with UVA), 2013


Meltdown, 2008


Protection lay out (with-Michael-Nash), 1993

3D and the art of Massive Attack is available now from The Vinyl Factory.

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