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Thursday, July 26, 2012 Page B1 SECTION LIVING B WHAT’S ON? Q DINING GUIDE QREAL ESTATE QCLASSIFIED Q SERVICE GUIDE Q PROFESSIONAL DIRECTORY Bronx museum explores graffiti’s controversial place in history By Qainat Khan F. JOHN MARK PEREZ, 13, creates his own style during the opening reception of Bronx Lab: Style Wars on July 20. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of New York in 1927 that, “the restlessness … approached hysteria.” He could have said the same of New York in the 1970s: the markets were crashing, the buildings were burning, the drug wars were growing. And amidst it all, furtive figures wearing gas masks and carrying cans of spray paint, would “bomb” subway cars — writing graffiti on trains. They ran the gamut from an individual leaving his tag in permanent marker to a crew spray painting a mural across multiple subway cars. Graffiti writing was the visual manifestation of hip-hop culture, which developed in the South Bronx in the 1970s. It has always been controversial. Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, called graffiti a “quality of life offense,” likening it to pickpocketing and shoplifting, in the hip- hop documentary Style Wars. But graffiti also has had its defenders, who describe it as art, an expression of identity for people who are locked out of mainstream culture. “What is seen as chaotic or dangerous, is actually democratic dialogue,” says Sergio Bessa, director of programs at the Bronx Museum. “[There was] this exhilarating sense of freedom — the city was a canvas.” Forty years on, graffiti has become part of the urban iconography, and while not encouraged, it no longer exists in the realm of outlaws either. Graffiti has been appropriated by commercial and mainstream culture, as well as in fine arts. In its ongoing exhibit Bronx Lab: Style Wars, that opened on July 19, the Bronx Museum follows the course graffiti has taken since the 1970s, exhibiting works that explore graffiti without being graffiti themselves. The exhibition asks the question: what is style? It begins with Rigoberto Torres’ plaster cast of the graffiti artist Daze (whose real name is Chris Ellis), the Bronx Lab: Style Wars is on display until Jan. 6, 2013. Admission to the Bronx Museum is free. Visit www. for details on other exhibitions and upcoming events. archetypal graffiti artist of the 1970s, with his cans of spray paint and his mask. Also opening the exhibit is “Stop the War,” a mural on canvas by graffiti writers Tats Cru, the well known crew from Hunts Point, whose work has been featured in commercial and corporate venues. The other artists and works involved take Tats Cru, Daze and other old school artists as their jumping off points. Glendalys Medina, 32, who goes by the hip-hop name The Shank, recalls learning graffiti by imitation. As The Shank, Ms. Medina is learning all the elements of hip-hop, including MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. The influence of graffiti writers is apparent in her tag, Black Gold, which is an abstraction of a boombox. Unlike most graffiti tags, however, Black Gold features no words, but is purely graphic. “I don’t think of myself as a writer,” Ms. Medina explains. But she understands art as a transformative project, and as a way for her to express her identity, which is how graffiti and hip-hop functioned from the very beginning. “It’s an exercise to assert myself,” she says of The Shank’s tag. “So that somebody knows I’ve been here.” At the center of graffiti is the intersection of the graphic with the written word, which works by Keith Haring and Tim Rollins help explore. Haring’s collection of etchings called “The Valley,” is paired with the writing of William S. Burroughs. Mr. Rollins, a high school teacher in New York, used graffiti to inspire his students to read literary classics, like The Scarlet Letter. The protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, Hester Prynne, has much in common with the graffiti writers who came after her. She used her skills as an embroiderer to transform the signifier of her sin — the letter “A” which she has to wear for the rest of her life — into something beautiful. “The Scarlet Letter: The Procession,” which Mr. Rollins made with his students, superposes different manifestation of the letter A on a chapter from the book. In the lobby, the museum has left out what are called “piecebooks” — blank notepads in which visitors can leave their own tags. Using the computer stations, visitors can leave their comments about the art, their thoughts on what style is and interact and participate with each other. Mr. Bessa describes the lobby as an active think tank. And being at the museum, loud with the hum of voices and Latin music, and seeing kids draw tags that celebrate the Bronx in the museum’s piecebooks, you know the city still remains a canvas restless with possibility. TATS CRU’S mural titled ‘Stop the War’ is on display at The Bronx Museum of Arts, above. AT CENTER, a threedimensional piece by Rigoberto Torres of well-known graffiti artist Daze, shows him holding spray cans. VALERI LARKO’S ‘Gasteria, Bronx’ painting from 2009 depicts a vacant gas station. ROY SECORD, left, examines works by Keith Haring, part of Bronx Lab: Style Wars, on view at The Bronx Museum of Arts through Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. Photos by Marisol Diaz SEARCH 2 5 , 0 0 0 TRI-STATE LISTINGS ON THE AWARD-WINNING

Riverdale Press Real Estate July 26, 2012

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