New Yorkers who date back to the mid 1970s will remember the birth of subway graffiti art and Lee Quinones as a prominent figure in this movement. Well known for painting entire subway cars, and credited with painting about 125 cars all together, the Puerto Rico-born New Yorker was part of the respected writing crew The Fabulous 5 (Fab 5). Now, forty years later, Quinones has long since moved out of the subway and into the mainstream–in galleries, museums and private collections all over the world. You may recognize our previous coverage of Quinones within the Museum of the City of New York exhibition, City as Canvas  

Pop-up solo exhibit curated by Nicole Klagsbrun on the Lower East Side

Quinones’ current solo exhibit is in a pop-up gallery on the Lower East Side, curated by gallerist Nicole Klagsbrun. You’ll find his early work depicting the history of New York City in the 1970s with his drawings exploring the economy, war and the turbulent times of that decade.

His transition from murals on trains to creating on canvas came with his 1979 exhibition at Claudio Bruni’s Galleria Medusa in Rome and has continued with paintings currently in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands and many many more.  In addition to visual art, he has an extensive presence in both music videos and movies/documentaries and books, including Wild Style and the video set he and Basquiat worked on for Debbie Harry’s music video (Blondie) in 1981.

Lee Quinones painting 'Golpe de Suerte' c.2013 - translated means 'serendipity'
Lee Quinones painting ‘Golpe de Suerte’ c.2013 – translated means ‘serendipity’

His most recent work reflects his family and ethnicity. His content and style have run the gamut and have included both political and social issues of the day. His first love has always been drawing, and that is evident in the painting ‘Golpe de Suerte’ (above) which is one of his newer works, and is a reflection of his family and his identity.  In it, you will see a collage of personal items including his mothers writings and recipes.

His older work is filled messages meant to open conversation.  One of his most well-known murals was “Howard the Duck” created in 1978 on a handball court

Jesus Christ Superstar (1977) is a collage containing silhouettes of Vietnam soldiers, warheads and factory towers with a pastel colored background and Christ in the center with the words “Forgive Them” above his head.

In 1976, a block of ten subway cards were painted & documented in an interview with Quinones in the book “Getting Up” by Craig Castelman for MIT Press
Signing his work LEE, Quinones was a member of the Fabulous 5, an elite quintet of graffiti writers

Quinones’ solo exhibit is located at 291 Grand Street on the Lower East Side as a pop-up curated by the Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery and will be up through June 7. Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.