October 8th, 2012
Hey I am going to be at the Apple Store in SoHo talking about the book on September 27th at 7 pm
Henry Chalfant’s Big Graffiti Archive is a work of visual anthropology and one of the seminal documents of American popular culture in the late twentieth century. The original artworks depicted here, which have been the inspiration and guide for thousands of youthful artists around the world, were never able to endure for long before the city cleaned the cars, or the artists’ enemies crossed them out. Chalfant’s patience and determination in hunting down and capturing these masterpieces with his camera has left the world with a representative cross section of some of the best work by the most talented young artists who painted New York City’s subway cars in the seventies and eighties, the golden age of graffiti. A handful of Chalfant’s photos have been featured in such books as Subway Art and films like Style Wars. Now for the first time, the entire collection will be made available, released serially over the next year until all 800 trains have been published. The book is designed by Max Hergenrother and the video interviews with the artists of the era are produced by Carl Weston, of Videograf Productions.
Once again there’s a Style Wars 2 rumor going around.
Kase2 has gone, way too young, way too soon. We lament the passing of an artist because we wonder how many important works of art will now never see the light of day. Kase “left his mark on society”, in the words of Mayor Koch, and he left his mark “in society” with the tremendous influence he had on succeeding generations of young artists all over the world. Travel to any major city and you will see his unmistakable influence. He had an impact on culture like the great Jazz and Blues musicians of the last century.
Kase overcame great obstacles. He never gave up and he got up till the very end. He was a style master with lettering, a style master with the singular expressive way he used the english language. His very being emanated style, fiercely and sometimes with great humor. Rest in Peace Kase2, King of Style, Pharaoh of the Iron Horse. Kase #1
My wife Kathy and I were invited to American University Beirut last week. Kathy did a theater workshop and I presented a slide show on New York graf, showed Style Wars and went around with a local film crew and a couple of street artists to look at some of the work being done in that town.
n Beirut, I went around with one of the members of the Ashekman crew, actually, another set of identical twin graffiti artists on the global scene, the first being Os Gemeos. The word Ashekman is a street slang word derived from the French word “echappement” which means “exhaust”, therefore it also means “pollution”. Ashekman have borrowed techniques from New York style and adapted both “bubble” letters and “wild style” to Arabic calligraphy with very good results. While in New York, graffiti was mostly aimed at the artists’ adolescent peers, in Beirut, artists, are using the idea of appropriating public space to express ideas which target the wider community. Ashekman say they love their city and their work communicates ideas that celebrate its historic vitality and resilience. I was pleased to see that artists in Beirut don’t hesitate to paint images that criticize and exhort the their fellow citizens to wake up! or to think twice before unleashing the wrecking ball that destroys the architectural heritage. There are some funny stenciled images and others that symbolize freedom, or that praise the Iraqui journalist who threw his shoe at George Bush, or that exhort us to practice safe sex…. and sometimes just expression, as the stencil artist who created faces to symbolize all our different moods.
Omar said he would translate for the Arabic for me. Meanwhile I’ll put up a few flics. Omar, one of the twins of Ashekman
I just spent a couple of days in Coventry and Birmingham with Mohammed Ali, Aerosol Arabic. Mohammed curated the Street Art exhibit at the Herbert Museum in Coventry. I joined him to talk about our work and the great possibilities that graffiti has opened up for people to express themselves. Mohammed Ali was inspired by Malcom X to use his skills as an artist to make public murals to fight racism and oppression
The Street Text event at 516 ARTS in Albuquerque opened this weekend with a packed gallery, amazing artworks by Chip Thomas, Chris Stain, Shephard Fairey, Swoon, Jaque Fragua, Chaz Bojorquez and others..
We showed Style Wars and Henry and Slip One did a Q&A. Chaz Bojorquez and Henry had a great public conversation about East Coast vs West Coast. We all learned a lot from each other. 516 ARTS had a bigger crowd that they’ve ever had for an event.
Three decades after I took pictures of pieces on trains and ten years after I began the process of digitalizing the photos, for the first time I will be making all of my subway pictures available. While I’ve published many of my photos in magazines and exhibition catalogues, most of the Subway photos in my collection have never been published. At last the long awaited Big Graffiti Archive will be available in the form of a DVD set.
For most of these photos, I used my montage technique, in which I took pictures of the pieces on subways while standing on a station platform. With a 50 mm lens I had to take four or five shots to capture the whole side of the car. Later on I would splice the photos in my studio to create a complete image. Cutting, splicing and gluing has given way to digital stitching and photo shop. Each work will be presented with the original shots and a composite image of the stitched train. It will also be possible to see the artwork in close-up on the screen.