One year after the death of renowned local graffiti legend Cool “Disco” Dan, the D.C. Council plans to exhibit his works at the John A. Wilson Building.
In the 1980s and ’90s, his ubiquitous block-letter signature “Cool ‘Disco’ Dan” tags once could be found on buses, storefronts, bridges and roofs throughout the city, particularly along the Red Line. Though few knew him very well until a 1991 Washington Post profile, which he is said to have later regretted, his tags around the city made him a heroic figure to many in the District.
The work of the city’s most legendary artist is becoming much harder to find these days. But the Council will make a new home for two of Disco Dan’s works, with plans to install the works at the Wilson building in September.
“Anyone who lived in the District in the 1980s will recall how omnipresent Dan’s famous tag was D.C.-wide, but especially in one of his most famous haunts, along Metro’s Red Line,” the council wrote in a statement announcing the project. “Cool ‘Disco’ Dan and his tag were woven into the District’s visual tapestry in a way that few iconic images have been, before or since.”
The local tag artist, who died last year at the age of 47 of complications from diabetes, was born Danny Hogg.
Hogg, who began tagging at the age of 16, got his nickname from going to go-go shows and spent his teen years spraying it across the District. Though known to be shy, he became one of the most celebrated graffiti taggers in the city because his tag seemed to be everywhere.
“Dan — he’s on a white wall at Fifth and F NW, next to Engine Co. No. 2. … he’s on an orange door below ground at d.c. space … he’s on girders holding up the Sousa Bridge,” Paul Hendrickson wrote in the Post article. “The name’s on bridges, buses, transformer boxes, subway underpasses, liquor store walls. There are no official tabulations, but his tag must now exist on several thousand D.C. surfaces.”
He stopped tagging in the early 2000s and in his later years, he struggled with homelessness and mental illness.
Joesph Pattisall and Roger Gastman’s documentary “The Legend of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan,” released in 2013, celebrated his legacy and used his life as a window into the District’s turbulent streets in the ’80s. It also helped to create a nostalgia for the city’s culture, which was slowly giving way to gentrification.
Hogg’s works then were memorialized in places such as the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran and in the book “The History of American Graffiti.”
Last year, Mayor Muriel Bowser publicly proclaimed Aug. 19, 2017, as “Cool ‘Disco’ Dan Day” in D.C.
In a 2013 Washington Post story, Clinton Yates wrote that Hogg was “a personal testament to the struggles of the city and the people who lived here, and his staggering visibility, even if illegal, was a steadying hand for many when we had few others.”