Starting out as a sculptor in New York in the 1970s, Chalfant turned to photography and film to do an in-depth study of hip-hop culture and graffiti art. One of the foremost authorities on New York subway art,and other aspects of urban youth culture, his photographs record hundreds of ephemeral, original art works that have long since vanished. Exhibits of his photos include the O.K. Harris Gallery and the landmark ‘New York-New Wave’ show at P.S. l, and important galleries and museums in Europe. He has co-authored the definitive account of New York graffiti art, Subway Art (Holt Rinehart Winston, N.Y. 1984) and a sequel on the art form’s world-wide diffusion, Spray Can Art (Thames and Hudson Inc. London, 1987).
Chalfant co-produced the PBS documentary, Style Wars, the definitive documentary about Graffiti and Hip Hop culture and directed Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, a documentary on South Bronx gangs, in 1993. He produced and directed Visit Palestine: Ten Days on the West Bank in 2002. His film From Mambo to Hip Hop was featured in the Latino Public Broadcasting series, Voces in 2006-2007, and won an Alma Award for Best Documentary.
Chalfant is a resident of New York City with his wife Kathleen, an actress. They have two children, David, a musician and producer, and Andromache, a set designer. He continues to make documentary films about urban popular culture.
SCULPTURE - Solo exhibitions include: A-Dieci Gallery, Padua, Italy, 1970; 14 Sculptors Gallery, New York, 1973; 55 Mercer Gallery, New York, 1978. He was a founding member of 14 Sculptors Gallery.
Group exhibitions include: Sculptors Guild, Lever House, New York, annually, 1974-1983, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, Pa. 1977; O.I.A. Battery Park, New York, 1977; Sculptors Guild, Bronx Botanical Gardens, New York, 1981; Elaine Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, New York, 1981-1983;
PHOTO-DOCUMENTATION - Solo exhibitions include: ”Graffiti in New York”, OK Harris, New York, 1980; Canton art Institute, Canton, Ohio, 1981; Riverside Studios, London, 1985; Instituto de Cultura Norteamericana, Barcelona, 1985; Addison – Ripley Gallery, Washington, D.C. 1991. Ten Years: 1977-1987 The Prosper Gallery, New York, 2002; Maharishi, London, 2002; Prosper Tokyo, 2002; Galerie Speerstra, Paris, 2003; Iguapop , Barcelona, 2004; Montana Colors, Barcelona, 2006; Cox 18, Milano, 2006; Galerie Speerstra, Paris, 2006.
Group exhibitions include: New York/New Wave, P.S.1, New York, 1981; “The Comic Art Show”, Whitney Downtown, New York, 1983; “Content, a Contemporary Focus 1974-1984″, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. 1984; “Since the Harlem Renaissance, 50 Years of Afro-American Art”, Bucknell University, 1985; Groningen Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands. 1993: “Urban Mythologies”, The Bronx Museum, New York, 1999. “Art of the American Century Part ll”, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY 1999. “Hip Hop: A Cultural Expression”, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio; 1999; Hip Hop exhibit at the Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA, 2000; Helenbeck Gallery, “Whole in the Wall”, New York, 2009; Cartier Foundation, “Born in the Streets”, Paris, 2009. The Bronx Museum, New York, 2009.
BOOKS - Subway Art, Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, Thames and Hudson, London, 1984, Henry Holt, New York, 1984; Spray Can Art, Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff, Thames and Hudson, London and New York, 1987. Subway Art 25th Anniversary Edition, Thames and Hudson, London and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2009.
FILM AND VIDEO - Co-produced Style Wars, a PBS documentary film with Tony Silver, New York, 1984; produced with Rita Fecher and directed the documentary on South Bronx gangs, Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, 1993. Produced and directed Visit Palestine: Ten Days on the West Bank. 2002 and directed From Mambo to Hip Hop, a documentary produced by City Lore Inc. 2006
Current project is a documentary film, working title, “Grand Tour”, based on film footage his father shot in 1931 while on a trip around the world.