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.
© Aaron Rose. Untitled, Coney Island, 1961-63. Photo via MCNY.
Summer is quickly approaching and in just a few weeks, Coney Island beach will fill with tourists, surfers and people just wanting a good hot dog from Nathan’s. Nothing truly symbolizes NYC in the summer more than that first day on the famous boardwalk and beach. But before you waste away that summer body you have been working on due to hot-dog consumption, and praying to the heavens that someone in your group remembered to bring sun-screen, head to the Museum of The City of New York for a new exhibition of photographs by Aaron Rose.
Original location of the MoMA at the Heckscher Building (left) on 5th Avenue. Image source: MOMA
Many of New York City’s museums are located in grand buildings designed specifically to show off the grandeur of their collections and to make a statement regarding the cultural standing of New York City. However, when the City’s museums were nascent they had to make due with whatever space they could. Their early homes were, for the most part, smaller, mirroring the size of their original budgets and collections. Looking back at the former homes of eight New York City institutions enables visitors to fully appreciate their current state.
From left to right: A. Stewart as the Fuller Building, Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf-Astoria, Ely Jacques Khan as the Squibb BuildingWilliam Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ralph Walker as the Irving Trust Building, Arthur J.Arwine as a low pressure heating boiler, and Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York. Source: NY Times
Looking at this photo from the 1931 Society of Beaux-Arts Architects Ball, we get the feeling that costumes were more…creative back then. The theme that year was “Fête Moderne – a Fantasie in Flame and Silver,” a celebration of the future of designing buildings. Appropriately, at least two dozen architects came as buildings that they had recently designed to exemplify their vision for the future.
All six of the buildings, from the Chrysler Building, to the Waldorf Astoria and the Museum of the City of New York, are still prominent in New York City life today. Perhaps these costumes, and this indelible image, helped spread the buildings’ popularity. After all, they are pretty memorable, especially William van Alen’s Chrysler costume. (Towering headpiece aside, he is the only one in the photo that chose not to don the generic tunic worn by the others!).
The Beaux-Arts Ball is an ongoing annual event, held in New York by the Architectural League. Hopefully, they’ll do a similar dress-as-your-project theme sometime soon, because we’d love to see David Childs’s attempt at a One World Trade Center hat.
Get in touch with the author @YiinYangYale.
Our curated events picks for this week: Participate in video installation art with Made in NY, taste Bronx Brewery’s new Belgian Pale Ale, Gimme the Loot film screening at IFC.
MONDAY, MARCH 18: Attention Heroes, villains, crusaders, cyborgs, mutants and creatures of the night. The Super-human Underground comes together to celebrate our collective feats of wonder with a night of Underground movies and dangerously cheap booze at the infamous Gotham city lounge. Featuring: “Bodega Chips” Directed by Jamie Idea, an award winning short film by Maxwell Cohn, a speciel preiview of our new secret film project, and the premier of “The Life and Times of Dr. Adventure”. This is a special event, please come in costume and prepared for a night of mind-bending superhuman feats. 7pm at Gotham City Lounge, 1293 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn. RSVP for the password. (more…)
Our curated events picks for this week: E.L. Doctorow reading at MCNY, No Longer Empty + Local Roots 5 course fundraising dinner, Chinatown Restaurant Week.
MONDAY, MARCH 11: “We stood in the shadow of the Trylon and Preisphere, and I felt these familiar forms, huge and white, granted some sort of beneficence to my shoulders.” So says the narrator of World’s Fair: A Novel, the 1986 National Book Award Winner by celebrated novelist E.L. Doctorow, which recreates the magic of the 1939 New York World’s Fair as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Join Mr. Doctorow as he reads excerpts from his novel, followed by a discussion with the audience. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s. 6:30pm at MCNY, 1220 5th Avenue. Reservations required. $6 Museum members / $8 students & seniors / $12 general admission. RSVP here. (more…)