Graffiti, as we know it today, was born in Bronx, transforming the streets and subway trains of New York City almost overnight (literally). Henry Chalfant’s photographs and films, including his groundbreaking 1983 documentary Style Wars, immortalized this transient art form when it was still in its adolescence, and helped launch graffiti art into the international phenomenon it is now.
This September, a new exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts will honor that legacy. Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 will feature hundreds of artworks from one of the most significant documentarians of subway art. Through the lens of Henry Chalfant, the public will be able to see the now largely disappeared works of legendary subway writers, including Dondi, Dez, Futura, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, Skeme, and Zephyr, and Bronx legends including Blade, Crash, DAZE, Dust, Kel, Mare, Mitch 77, Noc 167, SEEN, and T-Kid.
For this exhibition, we’re going to print hundreds of Henry’s photographs, a video that includes 800 images by well-known and under-recognized writers, and a recreation of Henry’s 1980s studio, paired with a soundtrack of subway sounds. With your help, this exhibition will take visitors back to the center of the 80s graffiti scene, where friends and rivals built an entire artform from the ground-up.
Bronx, and New York City as a whole, looks very different today from the city Henry was documenting. The historic exhibition and its programming explores the crucible in which this rebellious art form was launched, in the midst of a tumultuous time in New York City history. His photographs give us a rare look into New York life in the 1970s and 80s, offering an expansive view of an era when artists brought their world, and their message, to the street. Henry’s work celebrates their voice, and this exhibition gives them the platform they deserve today.
With this Kickstarter, we are looking to close the gap on the exhibition’s production budget. Since its founding in 1971, the Bronx Museum museum has played a vital role in Bronx by helping to make art accessible to the entire community and connecting with local schools, artists, teens, and families through its robust education initiatives. Supporting this project means you stand with the Bronx Museum and its mission to make world renowned exhibitions and educational programs available to all.
To donate, please visit here.
About Henry Chalfant
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 artworks that have long since vanished. With Martha Cooper, he co-authored the definitive account of New York graffiti art, Subway Art (Holt Rinehart Winston, N.Y. 1984) and with James Prigoff, co-authored a sequel on the art form’s world-wide diffusion, Spray Can Art (Thames and Hudson Inc. London, 1987). Chalfant co-produced with Tony Silver 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.