Well, really, the headline here isn’t entirely accurate. The artist and collector Martin Wong saved the seeds of a culture, and then donated his collection the Museum of the City of New York. And then the museum mostly kept those seeds hidden away for about twenty years. But now the museum, with the help of curator Sean Corcoran and others, has brought those seeds back into the spotlight for a new generation to learn from. Of course, I’m talking about City as Canvas, the new show at the Museum of the City of New York, and the seeds I’m talking about are the seeds of modern graffiti.
The back story behind City as Canvas is pretty great. Wong, a painter who lived in NYC’s East Village in the 80’s, was noticing graffiti and as he met some of the men and women behind it, he began supporting the young writers by buying their work. Eventually, that turned into a major collection of work by New York train writers like Sharp, Daze, Lee, Futura and many more. Wong even tried to open his own “Museum of American Graffiti” in 1989, but it didn’t work out. Still, Wong had amassed something special and unique that captured a very important time period for graffiti as artists transitioned from trains to canvases and teenagers to adults, and as graffiti itself spread from New York City to the rest of the world. Eventually, he donated his collection to the Museum of the City of New York. Those are the basics, but really, the story of Wong’s collection has already been told very well and in more detail in the New York Times, so do check out that article.
One of the greatest early supporters of graffiti artists was Martin Wong, a painter who lived in New York City during the city’s Golden Age of graffiti. Wong collected the work of young artists working outdoors like Lee Quinones, Rammellzee and Keith Haring. Wong’s collection is perhaps the best existing set of artworks that together give a sense of modern graffiti’s early days in the city where it (effectively) began. In the mid-90’s, Wong donated the whole thing to the Museum of the City of New York. It’s a collection that early writers often tell me about with a sense of wonder, and they always suggest that I have a look at the collection because I could learn a thing or two from it. Now, works from the are about to be exhibited publicly at the Museum of the City of New York for the first time.
City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection opens next Tuesday the 4th at the Museum of the City of New York. I’m excited to see so much early work (nearly 150 pieces) in person, and to hopefully get a sense of how Wong saw the early graffiti scene. In addition to some early canvas work by artists like Lady Pink and Daze, the collection includes a subset of work that should be particularly interesting for those of us interested in the history of graffiti: perhaps the only collection of blackbook sketches in a museum possession. The show also includes a new short film by Charlie Ahearn and photographs by Ahearn, Martha Cooper, Jack Stewart and Jon Naar. In case it’s not already obvious, let me just state that this sounds like it will be a must-see exhibition for graffiti geeks.
This year Wywood Walls turned five and to mark the special occasion curator Jeffrey Deitch called on on the finest ladies in the field for Women on the Walls. International artists Aiko, Miss Van, Fafi, Maya Hayuk, Lady Pink, Faith47, Lakwena, Kashink, Sheryo, Olek, Toofly, Claw Money, Jessie & Katey, Myla, and Shamsia Hassani all created murals or showed in the adjacent exhibition space. The participating artists have come from cities such as Cape Town, Paris, New York, and London. Part gallery part mural exhibition, the project acts as a history guide to the great presence of women muralists.
Women on the Walls is a dream come true and also a proverbial screw you to people who say that the reason women artists are often overshadowed in the media is due to a dearth in street art. That, to be blunt, is bullshit. Older artists and the younger generation they inspired came together in the Wynwood district of Miami this Art Basel to prove their stronghold in the public art community. The scope of media alone proves their mastery of the craft as spray paint, yarn, text, stencils, and free handed characters all co-mingle to form a variety that has something to please most tastes.
Not only is the perfect storm of artists curated in this year’s Wynwood Walls enough to be in awe of, additionally Martha Cooper has shared some breathtaking progress photos. As artfully as the walls are decorated, each image thoughtfully reveals the personas behind the iconography. Each picture displays the strength of these women, whether unveiling the sheer amount of effort behind a production to those who stand boldly in front of completed pieces. Cooper shows that these women are heroes, or warriors as Toofly depicts, taking on whatever challenges lay in their wake and simply killing it.
This year’s Wall\Therapy festival is winding down in Rochester, NY, so let’s have a look at the finished work (although a few were already covered by Daniel’s posts). There are a few really killer pieces, including this piece by Ever that I haven’t seen professional photos of yet, and some legal work along abandoned train tracks which is really interesting, but I’m not sure about this spot that looks like a little hall-of-fame setup. Those are valuable to have, but I personally wouldn’t put one in a mural festival these days. Still, plenty of good work all around, and I love that there are way more old-school writers at Wall\Therapy than just about any other mural festival I’ve ever seen besides perhaps a Meeting of Styles event. Conor Harrington knocked it out of the park, and Jessie and Katey did a simple but really effective piece.
For the last week or so until today, we’ve been in the process changing Vandalog’s web hosts. No need to get into the technical details, but now the site should run more smoothly and with less downtime. Unfortunately it means that we haven’t been able to write anything new on the site since that process began (everything that’s gone online was pre-scheduled). So this is a mega-link-o-rama combining the usual weekend link-o-rama content with stuff that I could have written about last week even if I’d had the time.
Martha Cooper turned 70 this weekend, and the graffiti community came together at Bowery and Houston to give her a giant surprise birthday present (pictured above). How and Nosm told Cooper that they were planning to repaint their piece at Bowery and Houston and told her to come by at noon on Saturday, but they didn’t tell her how they were going to have to piece repainted. They brought together a bunch of new and old graffiti legends and painted a giant blockbuster tribute to Cooper. BSA has plenty more great photos of the piece in progress and a perfect shot of Cooper reacting to seeing the mural.
WK Interact’s pop-up show in NYC is absolutely fantastic, a must-see show. Think it this way: This show, as I understand it, is a retrospective but it’s made up of the work that WK had in his studio, not work borrowed or on the secondary market from collectors, so this is a lot of unsold work. And yet, the show is still one of the strongest I’ve seen from any artist in quite a while, and the work holds up just fine next to anything else by WK. Even the work that has been sitting in the WK’s studio for a few years is just masterpiece after masterpiece. Good stuff.
Mr. Brainwash has lost another lawsuit by a photographer upset with MBW’s appropriation. Basically, it boils down to MBW’s work being too similar to the original photograph, with no original contributions to the work by MBW.
It appears that Phil Frost hit a massive billboard in LA, and then the billboard was stolen. But the whole thing seems like a shady PR scam for Ace Gallery. Melrose&Fairfax has the full story, but one point they don’t make is that Ace Gallery has a history of controversy, so that makes me even more doubtful that this billboard and its theft are real. Also, let’s face it, there’s a good chance that the billboard is illegal anyway since this was in LA, so who cares if the ad was stolen off of the billboard?
Produced by YOUNITY, an international collective of urban female artists, and curated by Alice Mizrachi and Diana McClure, Purple opens tomorrow from 6-9pm at Causey Contemporary Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Featuring an eclectic range of artworks by female artists from across the globe, the exhibit will remain on view through November 19, 2012. Here’ are two more images from the exhibit:
Back in the day, Lady Pink was the most prominent female among the graffiti artists who painted trains. While she still maintains a presence on the streets — we saw her murals last week, in fact, in the Bronx and in Queens – her works are currently seen in a range of venues including galleries and museums. Her current exhibit Lady Pink: Evolution — a testament to her evolution as an artist — continues through December 30th at Woodward Gallery at 133 Eldridge Street on New York City’s Lower East Side. Here’s a sampling of images that Tara captured at this evening’s opening:
On Every Street is a show opening this Thursday at Samuel Owen Gallery in Greenwich, CT. Curated by Michael de Feo, it features the work of dozens of street artists. On Every Street includes a diverse of street artists both in style and (from Hargo to Tony Curanaj) and when they were active outdoors (from Richard Hambleton to Gaia).
Here’s the full line up: Above, Aiko, Michael Anderson, Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, C215, Tony Curanaj, Michael De Feo, D*Face, Ellis Gallagher, Keith Haring, Ron English, Blek le rat, Faile, Shepard Fairey, John Fekner, JMR, Gaia, Richard Hambleton, Hargo, Maya Hayuk, Don Leicht, Tom Otterness, Lady Pink, Lister, Ripo, Mike Sajnoski, Jeff Soto, Chris Stain, Swoon, Thundercut, Dan Witz.
For the second year, a diverse crew of dozens of first-rate street artists transformed several Queens blocks into an open-air gallery. Here is a selection of photos of artists at work captured yesterday by Lenny Collado, a recent college graduate who’s been documenting graffiti/street art alongside me. More to follow when I visit the site tomorrow: