The event was hosted by New York City icon Ron G, who was mentioned in seminal New York-based classics such as Illmatic and Ready to Die. It turned out to be the embodiment of the underground scene in New York, aiming to specifically elevate the contested art of graffiti. Many influential artists, including Phetus, Sen2 and King Bee, were featured.
Graffiti is a fascinating art form for its roots in both contemporary urban culture and traditional European art. Modern-day graffiti is a progressive form of expression that emphasizes subjectivity and emotion. In all its glory, graffiti was a centerpiece at this event.
Taki183 was influential at the beginning of the New York street art movement. Much like impressionism, graffiti was based on simulating physical movement. But what differentiates graffiti artists is the catalyst behind the movement that inspires their work; their canvas is public property. If graffiti is ever considered to be lowbrow and not avant-garde, it is because the art form takes place outside of laws and social norms. In reality, it gives voice to the voiceless.
Protest is exactly how graffiti intersects with expressionism. Artwork that will be featured at the showcase by Cornbread is a prime instance of his contribution to the art form. He found notoriety in Philadelphia during the late 1960’s and early 70’s by tagging his name along with a profession of love for a girl he knew, once again on ‘public property’. This act of affection mitigates the direct protesting act of graffiti and turns it into simply a form of self-expression without boundaries. This eventually transitioned not only into notoriety, but also a chance to spread awareness.
King Bee, for instance, is more than just a pseudonym. Coming onto the scene a few decades after Taki183, King Bee’s artwork represents the threat to man if bees actually do become extinct, demonstrated by the aggressive staccato background from which the insect in the piece is born. This awareness of man’s connection to his environment challenges the interpretation of graffiti as vandalism. When put in context on a more accepted canvas, even King Bee’s early work elucidates that sometimes society’s laws contradict the benevolent order of nature that allows life to exist in harmony. New York graffiti and the other pillars of hip-hop are stark reminders that society’s shortcomings tend to get in the way of this natural harmony.
On February 15 at Open House, Elevated Scott brought a glimpse into New York City underground culture and art against the backdrop of one of the most commercialized sporting events: the NBA All-Star Weekend. Pieces featuring the aforementioned artists were on display. These works, worth thousands of dollars, facilitated the authentic New York hip-hop experience that this event brought to New York City nightlife, showcasing the intersection of art and protest.
By Ryan Parkes
Ryan Parkes is a recent Rutgers University graduate, writer, and music aficionado. His favorite cities are Philadelphia and New York City.