Case Maclaim & Pixel Pancho (Halopigg via Instagram)
We are more than halfway done with 2014, sounds insane doesn’t it? Seems like only yesterday we were dealing with polar vortexes, cat cafes and disappointing Knicks basketball. We still mourn the demise of 5 Pointz, which is set for complete demolition by October. While we may have lost our graffiti and street art monument, other parts of the city have stepped their game up and have given the NYC street art community walls to make their mark. After countless hours looking through photos, and praying that street artists will not go after us for making last minute cuts to the list, we present the 10 best NYC street art murals of the year so far.
No matter how much it annoys our current Chief of Police, graffiti is ingrained in NYC’s fabric. In the decades since it was common to see fresh murals painted on the sides of many of the city’s trains, neighborhoods have gone from wanting graffiti wiped from NYC’s identity, to using it as a tool to give their communities new life. Through The Boone Room project at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx, the controversial art form is being used to help retain the neighborhood’s identity and history, despite the upcoming demolition of an important graffiti haven on nearby Boone Avenue.
Image by Liz Ligon Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York. Life-size photograph of graffiti artist Dondi taken by Martha Cooper. Photographs of subways covered in graffiti taken by Henry Chalfant displayed along the walls in the City As Canvas exhibit.
With some exceptions, graffiti often hides in plain sight. But both its creators and the photographers that capture these works of art aren’t always as visible, a pattern the Museum of the City of New York interrupted with its panel discussion last week, On the Front Lines: Graffiti’s Documenters, that brought together photographers featured in the current exhibit City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection. In a delightful presentation, legendary photographers Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Flint Gennari, and Jon Naar, along with moderator and artist/author Jay J.SON Edlin, shared their images documenting graffiti writing in the 1970s and 1980s. Their stories gave us a glimpse of some of their earliest experiences photographing the graffiti culture.
Graffiti Kids, photograph by Jon Naar, 1973. Photographer Jon Naar documented New York’s graffiti art movement in 1970s and ’80s including artists, such as the pictured kids, posing with their work.
What isn’t immediately noticed in photographs of graffiti is the intimate relationship between photographers and graffiti artists. The photographers befriended and promoted the young graffiti artists at a time when the art movement was highly controversial and had very little support. Jon Naar described meeting writers for the first time and realizing they were just young children. He remembered feeling surprised, but not frightened as he shot his iconic photograph, Graffiti Kids (above), and discussed their resilience in finding ways to survive and thrive in very neglected neighborhoods in the city.
One of the photographs included in the presentation by Henry Chalfant. The photographers would often have kids seeking them out to photograph new work on trains. In this photo, we see Henry’s shadow as he photographs a direct message from a writer.
The photographers further explained how over time, their relationship with the writers became collaborative. Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper famously had writers calling them about their newest work on trains. As photographers favored certain train lines because of features like lighting, background, and location, eventually writers would gravitate towards those spots too. Young artists would “bomb” specific train lines because they were more likely to be photographed.
A photograph presented by Flint.
For Flint Gennari, the relationship between writer and photographer was even more intimate. He was writer as well as a photographer, documenting his peers and friends. Flint’s work offers a rare glimpse into the graffiti culture of that time, such as this image (above) of a writer tagging inside a subway car.
Redbird (Stay High 149), photograph by Jon Naar, 1973. Photographer Jon Naar documented New York’s graffiti art movement in 1970s and ’80s including landscape images of graffiti-covered subway trains rumbling through the city. This particular photograph is of a train painted by STAY HIGH 149, a pioneer in the writing movement.
Since we first interviewed the curator and met some of the artists , we have seen City As Canvas take on a life of it’s own through excellent public programs. What makes these programs special is that they offer the public a rare opportunity to meet and interact with some of the earliest graffiti artists in New York City and their documenting photographers. The book signing and reception after the presentation gave guests plenty of time to mingle.
Pictured: curator Sean Corcoran, Jay Edlin, Martha Cooper, Jon Naar, and Henry Chalfant. The photographers who documented New York’s graffiti art movement in 1970s and ’80s posing with their work, remind us of their muses, the Graffiti Kids.
The next public program in this series, Graffiti (R)Evolution: Graphic Design and Fine Art, is coming up on Wednesday, July 9 at 6:30 p.m.Join Cey Adams, founding creative director of Def Jam Recordings, and accomplished collage artist Greg Lamarches for a conversation moderated by graffiti artist Dave “Chino” Villorente on the evolution of graffiti from illicit underground movement to international force in the contemporary arts.
And, if you are looking for some kid-friendly Untapped events, be sure to check out the awesome family programs at MCNY.
What makes these programs special is that they offer the public a rare opportunity to meet and interact with some of the earliest graffiti artists in New York City and the documenting photographers.
Take note, the exhibition has been extended and will be on view until Monday, September 1, 2014.
Deep beneath the streets, in NYC’s extensive network of subway tunnels, graffiti artists have been secretly honing their craft for nearly four decades. With cans of spray paint and a willingness to traverse some of the most daunting subterranean landscapes, these artists have created a body of work that has remained largely untouched (and unseen) by the outside world. The upcoming book Beneath the Streets: The Hidden Relics of New York’s Subway System gives readers a rare glimpse of works seen only by their daring artists and transit workers. We had a chance to get the scoop from authors Matt Litwack and Jurne on their exciting new project.
Here is your weekly curated events guide for this week.
Monday, June 23rd
Make your way to Brooklyn Brewery in Greenpoint for “Big Chill,” an event featuring cold bites and colder beers. Menu items include cold borscht shots, chicken liver terrine, and ice cream sandwiches — all paired with Brooklyn Brewery beers and ales. This event is from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and a ticket is required. (more…)
Near DeKalb Ave Station, a mural by Joe Iurato for The Bushwick Collective. Iurato will soon be curating the new Mana Museum of Urban Arts in Jersey City.
If you haven’t made it out to The Bushwick Collective yet to check out the amazing street art, this weekend would be a great time to go! The Collective is kicking off the summer with its 1st annual gallery show and 3rd annual block party. We recently had a chance to revisit this street art hotspot, which has featured famous and up-and-coming artists for the past three years. (more…)