EVENT RECAP: Urban Art Legends With KET and DAZE

By - Saturday, February 13th, 2016

On Tuesday night, three legends in the Graffiti and Street Art world, Alan “KET”, Nick Walker, and Chris “DAZE” Ellis got together at the Museum of The City of New York for the release of KET’s new book, Urban Art Legends. Graffiti/Street art lovers, contemporary art enthusiasts, and the guests of honor all enjoyed a night dedicated to creating a dialogue focused on the evolution of this urban art form as well as getting a private viewing of DAZE’s own exhibition at the New Museum.

The major topic of discussion was the compelling evolution of the acceptance of graffiti art from the 70’s to present day. Once thought of as vandalism and gang related, graffiti is now viewed as an important art form in the contemporary art world. The reasoning behind this, besides its aesthetic appeal, is that graffiti allows the world another way of understanding the urban culture and the issues that affect urban communities. However the popularity of Graffiti and Street Art is a problematic one because it is still not widely accepted globally, especially in New York City. During this discussion it became clear that the way Europe and the United States handle vandalism as art is quite different.  Nick Walker expressed his experience on this matter of legality as a result of popularity:

“It was an illegal piece and the council put it to the general public as to whether the painting should stay or go, and obviously everyone loves Banksy in Bristol, so as a result it should stay, and that if you think about it, it’s agreeing on it for every other graffiti artist to go out there and paint whatever they like and that to me was a game changer”

Sounds like a game changer indeed. But unfortunately that is not the case for New York City, the main city of discussion at Tuesday nights talk. KET explained, in his opinion, why New York isn’t so accepting:

“I think NY has a very different take than Bristol on the graffiti issue. This city has a very long history on its engagement with the subject, right? with the artists… well they don’t even consider them to be artists so it’s sort of one of those situations I believe in NYC at least where no one in, sort of, the mayor’s office or any public officials, wants to come out and be pro graffiti for fear of being the first one, for fear of being mocked or ridiculed or perhaps losing their position and so there’s this sort of a stand off, so to speak, in NYC. So for a city that’s very much the art capital of the world when it comes to this particular art movement we’re very very far behind other cities in the world.”

The notion that the acceptance of public art and graffiti is very different in many places due to the conversation starting off differently is one that makes sense. When graffiti art started in 1970’s, it started with little to no art intent. According to DAZE when asked whether he saw graffiti as a gateway into the artworld, he responded “No, not at all. It didn’t exist. which was good, because it was able to give the work a chance to evolve without breaking.”

So even if graffiti is illegal or popular, when presented with the question on whether any of the artists foresee themselves focusing only on studio art in the future given the fame they have achieved, they all responded with a chuckled “No, it’s good fun.”

After the talk, the guests were invited to have a look at DAZE’s exhibition The City is My Muse, while they waited to have KET’s new book signed by the honorary guests. The exhibit was full of beautifully painted life size depictions of a journey through the five boroughs. With paintings ranging from the 1980’s to present day, it was quite inspiring to see the progression of this graffiti writer turned studio artist. Any native new yorker as well as NYC lovers alike will feel and understand the emotion that DAZE projects through these works of art, so definitely find time to visit this exhibit at The Museum of The City of New York before it ends on May 1st, 2016.



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