Style Masters: The Birth of the Graffiti Art Movement
The Museum’s inaugural exhibition surveys the evolution of aerosol art and culture, its roots in New York City as a 1970s teenage pastime, its explosion in popularity on the City’s walls and trains, and how it went global to become the largest and most powerful art movement in recorded history.
Breaking away from centuries of public graffiti that communicated messages of God, love, political beliefs, or just plain humor – youth in New York City began writing their names in flamboyant, individualized fonts on any public surface they could find. This practice, later called Style Writing, served as art training for youth who lacked formal classes or approved creative outlets. Within a decade a new worldwide art movement emerged. It was rebellious, expressive and lead by teenagers committed to leaving a mark on society.
Early documentation of this vivid art form by photographers Keith Baugh, Robert Browning, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Don 1, Flint Gennari, John Naar, Jim Prigoff and SJK171 allow us to see the long gone early wall and train works of graffiti writers. Works on canvas by Blade, Coco 144, Doze Green, Kel First, Lady Pink, Noc 167, Phase2, Quik, Snake 1, Sonic 002 and Dondi White capture the energy and power of the early style masters. Works on paper dating back as early as 1973, by artists such as Cos 207, Fuzz One, Part One, Lee Quiñones, Tracy 168 and Chain 3 showcase the wide range of styles and the creative development within the art form. Site-specific installations by Defer, Ghost, Giz, and Jon One highlight regional styles as well as dialogue between artists transnationally.