Sunday, February 9, 2014

"City As Canvas" The Martin Wong Collection Debuts at The Museum of the City of New York, Legends Are In The Building!

A press preview last Monday featured many of the former writers, taggers and all around best graffiti artists from back in the day on the trains and walls of New York City.   The event and on-going exhibit is perfectly entitled "City As Canvas," dedicated to the Martin Wong Collection.  Wong, a painter in his own right, first started befriending graffiti writers in the early 1980s recognizing and valuing the undeniable vibrancy of the work produced by those dubbed as both vandals and visionaries.   He was not only an artist but a true lover of graffiti and became one of the most serious collectors of the art.  He died in 1999 of AIDS.  In 1994 he donated his collection to The Museum of the City of New York. 
Carlo McCormick, the book’s co-editor, describes Wong as “an unashamed urbanist at a time when cities were held in exceptionally low esteem; his rhapsodic celebration of the city’s dilapidated tenements, shuttered businesses, junkie poets, and the teeming underclass of the postwar multicultural polyglot echoed his appreciation for graffiti art by championing the underdog, finding transcendence in transgression, and forging a Genet-like identification with criminality as an expression outside of societal bounds.” 
By the mid-‘80s, when Wong began seriously amassing his collection—55 black books and over 300 works on canvas and other media—graffiti had already become a cultural scapegoat for urban blight, but had crossed over into downtown and European galleries. Wong collected with a historian’s approach, yet aiming to document the art form’s development while also championing some of its most prolific and boundary-pushing figures.   
Some of what you will see includes the entry wall decorated with hundreds of artfully arranged spray paint cans, continuous rare photos of subway cars, and other surfaces sprayed to high heaven. Also, subway signs tagged and hung throughout and a mural with the words “Graffiti is a art, And if art is a crime, Let God forgive all.”

NOTE: There is also a tour planned for Sun., February 23 & Wed., March 19th, free with museum admission, plus many other related events such as "Little Black Books" and a "Wild Style" screening and more. (See the museums events page for more information.)

Lady Pink and about the books cover....
The cover of City As Canvas is composed from a detail of Lady Pink’s “The Death of Graffiti,” from 1982. A naked woman stands atop a mountain of discarded spray paint cans, pointing to a passing elevated train; one car is adorned with graffiti and the other is clean. The scene is a clear reference to how the MTA’s Vandal Squad had been working to keep writers from painting trains. While graffiti was thrown up throughout the five boroughs, you had to be out and about to see who was getting up., but with the trains, you could just sit and wait to see what passed before your eyes. It’s easy to understand why in the ‘80s the war on graffiti was perceived as the end of graffiti, and the Lady Pink painting captures this mindset.

CEO of the Museum Jerry Gallagher, Nick 707 and Guest
Bio (of TatsCru) & Luis Zimad Lamboy
The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas....
Daze (middles)

Zephyr's work above and signing....
Lee Quinones signing and his famous "Howard the Duck, 1988, above
Lady Pink
Sharp (above two photos)
Kenny Scharf & ON2 collab from 1983
Keith Haring, 1982, above and below
Terror and Lee with friends and family
The cover of the famous "Subway Art" by Martha Cooper
Book signing by Martha Cooper

More Martin Wong art....
Framed photos from back in the day....
Some pieces have the artists name, some do not. For a full documentation of each artist shown head to the museums catalog list at
The exhibit runs through August 24, 2014 but don't 
dare wait to see it!