Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 Opens at Bronx Museum


It wasn’t a fait accompli that Henry Chalfant was going to capture an entire graffiti train in late 1970s New York. He needed to devise a technique and plan his attack.

In much the same way that train writers like Blade, Dondi, SEEN, Mare and Skeme had to strategize, scope, and execute their hand-rendered work upon the rails under challenging circumstances and sometimes dangerous conditions, the photographic documentarian Chalfant had to likewise show up with his tools and skillz to document the work. He shot multiples in rapid succession by positioning himself, timing the trains, preparing his materials, and overlaying those images together end-to-end in a time-consuming methodology that he alone devised.

By presenting an ingenious visual anthropology, Henry captured for a greater audience the aesthetics and a more permanent record of the final product – at a time when most authorities and public sentiment saw little if any value in the work. This premeditated outlaw vandalism was also artistry, born with pure adrenaline by teenagers who were eager to make their mark in a rapidly declining US city in the midst of economic crises. When tags evolved to whole cars, whole cars became set pieces, and whole trains became a visual opus that swept into, through, and out of your view in minutes. By capturing and preserving them completely Chalfant ensured that future generations could appreciate them as well.

From the press release:
“He co-authored the definitive account of New York graffiti art, Subway Art (Holt Rinehart Winston, N.Y. 1984) and a sequel on the art form’s world-wide diffusion, Spray Can Art (Thames and Hudson Inc. London, 1987). Chalfant co-produced the PBS documentary, Style Wars, the definitive documentary about Graffiti and Hip Hop culture and directed Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, a documentary on South Bronx gangs, in 1993. He produced and directed Visit Palestine: Ten Days on the West Bank in 2002. His film From Mambo to Hip Hop was featured in the Latino Public Broadcasting series, Voces in 2006-2007, and won an Alma Award for Best Documentary.

Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 is generously supported by KAWS, Michael D. & Kristin Elkins, David Forbes and Velda Turan, Janet Goldman, Hal & Jodi Hess, Supreme, Powerhouse Arts, Philip & Cheryl Milstein, Eric Firestone Gallery, Sacha Jenkins & MassAppeal, Rob Cristofaro & Alife, Shepard Fairy, Anne Brown, and Josh Rechnitz.”


The exhibition is also supported by the 190 backers on Kickstarter who donated to his outreach. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/568527850/henry-chalfants-first-us-museum-retrospective


Banner image:

Henry Chalfant
Dondi, 1980, 2013, 2013
Kodak Professional Endura Metallic Paper
17h x 65h in.


Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987

For more information about HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977-1987 and the museum’s hours of operation and tickets click HERE

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