Seth Tobocman

The World is Being Ripped

Seth Tobocman

The World is Being Ripped



Edition Size



Acrylic, Spray paint, Stencil




27.5 × 22 in


Archival box

$ 6,000.00

4 in stock

View Collectors

Stanford University

University of Connecticut (UCONN)

14 stencil acrylic spray-paintings in a custom archival box with stenciled cover.

Though the images in this series have appeared in black and white in many different contexts, this color version has not been exhibited since it was first printed in the 1980s and shown at community arts spaces in New York City.

“I produced my first stencil graffiti in response to the U.S. invasion of Grenada. This illegal occupation of a tiny and defenseless country seemed to require an equally illegal response. I soon was putting out stencils against the bombing of El Salvador and the erosion of Civil Liberties in the United States as well. I learned to stencil from Anton Van Dalen and Michael Roman and I in turn taught Peter Kuper and several others. But I wanted to do more than a series of political tags. I wanted to make a full-length stenciled comic strip.

THE WORLD IS BEING RIPPED! was originally spray painted in black or red onto the sidewalks of New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1980s. The color version was too complex for hit-and-run-street-art and was shown at community centers like Charas El Bohio, clubs like Danceteria or small galleries like Ground Zero. A red, black, and green version was sold in a benefit auction for Black Liberation Army political prisoners. A full-color mural of the series was painted in a student house used by the Anti-Apartheid movement in Ithaca, New York.

The series was printed in black and white in World War 3 Illustrated # 4 and again in my book YOU DON’T HAVE TO FUCK PEOPLE OVER TO SURVIVE. The simple black and white format was very easy to photocopy, and so these images found their way onto numerous fliers, posters, patches, t-shirts and record covers. They were made into tattoos. There were even people who cut their own versions of the stencils and painted them up in their own neighborhood. A stencil traveled with a food caravan into Bosnia.

THE WORLD IS BEING RIPPED was originally a response to the Cold War, but it came to address a larger question: In a society as predatory and self destructive as this one, can there be any basis for morality? Is ethical behavior even possible in such a context? I like to think that in adopting these images as their emblems, people are answering that question in the affirmative.
— Seth Tobocman

This box set is made possible in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.