Art / Culture

From graffiti to hip-hop

Shanice Carr

Photos depict the roots of graffiti at The Point CDC.

Panel traces links between South Bronx’s art and its music

Although South Bronx graffiti art of the 1970’s is often thought of as an offshoot of hip-hop, a panel of graffiti greats argued in July that it is the other way around.

Some sixty guests heard a panel comprised of leaders of the movement, including Nic One, Eric Deal, and Flint, along with members of artist collectives Tats Cru and Crash, as they reminisced about the rise and fall of tagging on trains, NYPD’s war on graffiti and the acceptance of the art form abroad.

The discussion, From Mambo to Hip-Hop: Graffiti and the Media it Inspires, was the third in a series of panel presentations documenting the South Bronx’s role as an incubator for popular music, and the evolution of various musical and art forms. The moderator, Bronx-born graffiti guru Bonz Malone, explained how tagging helped give rise to hip-hop and pointed out that many talented artists remain unknown to the public.

“We’re the fortunate ones that got recognized, out of the thousands”, he said, motioning toward the panel.

Flint and Nic One presented slides displaying his iconic art and that of other writers from Flint’s era, illustrating how his art evolved, from writing to photography to multimedia.

Of all the art forms Tats Cru member and Hunts Point native BG183 took an interest in as a young man, graffiti was the one that most captivated him.

“Ever since I saw graff in the early 80’s, I ran with it and I never looked back,” he said.

“My work reflects what’s going on in the environment and in the community. I grew up in this neighborhood,” he continued, “and I think that’s why I survived here in the South Bronx – because of my graffiti.”

Mario Garcia, a local resident, was drawn to the event by his childhood memories of watching artists tag.

He was intrigued to hear that graffiti has been embraced in countries like Japan, Germany, and Australia, and is increasingly respected in the US.

“I didn’t expect anything like this, people just did it for fun. I never thought it was going to be in an art gallery,” he said.

“What surprises me, though, is that they stick a little more to the roots than what supposedly goes on here today which is just about making money,” said Garcia.

Panelist and graffiti artist Eric Deal Elisbret, who has documented the movement, hoped the event would inspire a new crop of writers and artists, and that the public would “get a better understanding of what the movement was about, the people that participated in it.”

“I’m hoping that there’s some young kid in the audience that got inspired and will pick up a spray can. That’s how a lot of us started,” he said.

Artist and educator Manuel “Prins” Acevedo, 49, said he moved to the Bronx from Newark a few years ago to get back into a graffiti groove, because it was the sensible choice.

“There’s a relationship-building in this art that is organic,” said Acevedo. “Even though it’s universal now, graff still holds a certain mystique about it.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply