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City As Canvas: the history of graffiti through the Martin Wong collection at Museum of NY

“And if art is a crime let God forgive all”

What started as a simple phenomenon of “tagging” or “throwing up” a person’s initials on the subway along with a specific number to coincide such as that said person’s address or birthday, graffiti art started taking its toll in New York City in the late seventies through little scribbles and doodles decorating the already busy picture of urban life (see: main photo).

Like it or not, it is more apparent now than ever just how far graffiti has come, given the city is covered in thousands of murals and tags everywhere. At the Museum of the City of New York, City As Canvas takes bits and pieces from the cultural graffiti phenomenon right out of Martin Wong’s personal collection from artists ranging anywhere from the popular Keith Haring all the way to more underground activists’ early sketches–making for a compacted 150 piece exhibit.

While the art is controversial and even considered historically deviant by authorities, there is ironically an advocacy for truth in its presence and a lot of graffiti’s underlying messages clearly written with purpose, making it justifiable in its cause. Whichever viewpoint you take on the whole scene, it is not likely graffiti art is going anywhere anytime soon, no matter HOW many times shop owners try and cover it up.

Catch this historical and fascinating exhibit including murals, original sketches, and other mixed media that outline the tale of this still illegal art until August 24th at the Museum of the City of NY, 1220-1227 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street.


The Jesus bust by LAII


Abstract techno-symbolism by SHARP



Various works by Martin Wong



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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.