All posts tagged: The Bronx Museum of The Arts

Riding the Rails in the Bronx With “Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977 – 1987”

Riding the Rails in the Bronx With “Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977 – 1987”

“We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”

That’s a quote on the wall in the new exhibition at the Bronx Museum spotlighting the work of Henry Chalfant. The quote comes from Mare 139, one of the early graffiti writers of 1970s-80s trains in New York, referring to the now-scrubbed subway cars that once functioned as a mobile gallery for the young masters of cans throughout a metropolis that was in the grips of financial and social upheaval. Thanks to the work of artists and documentarians like Mr. Chalfant, the ephemeral works were captured, cared for, preserved, and spread throughout the world in the intervening years, in some ways helping to spawn a global interest and practice among burgeoning artists.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987″ takes one of the original titles that co-author Martha Cooper suggested for the book that they published together “Subway Art” in 1984. That tome, full of both of their images that captured different aspects of the wild and untamed urban scene, eventually gained regard as a ‘holy book’ in certain graffiti circles across the world. Chalfants’ academic and sociological profile with producer Tony Silver of some of the early graffiti artists in the form of the 1984 PBS documentary “Style Wars,” also cemented his reputation as an expert in a rapidly evolving scene that brought untrained artists and original voices to the streets and trains.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo) On display is the dummy of Subway Art, the book Mr Chalfant co-authored with Martha Cooper – “the Bible” of graffiti for graffiti artists and Street Artists worldwide.

The show is the second iteration of an exhibition curated by SUSO33 in Madrid, Spain last year at the Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente. At opening night September 25th at the Bronx Museum the curator and artist were in attendance for the overflow crowd of artists and fans – many of whose work and faces appear in photos throughout the show. Visitors also got to see the original “Subway Art” book in its initial “dummy” form on display behind glass in its own vitrine.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Spread over multiple rooms filled with original photos, elevated train videos, and an impressive full-scale recreation of subway car facsimiles, the exhibit gives a rich survey of an epoch of an exciting tumultuous visual environment that rocked a city. The thunderous rumbling and screeching of trains adds an audio backdrop, somehow freeing these steel monsters from the past and making them temporarily contemporary. The raucous rebellious spirit of those times organically permutated and redefined itself in intervening decades, but Chalfant’s influence and dedication to preserving this potent moment provides ample evidence of the staying power of graffiti and its impact.

Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo
Photographer Martha Cooper shoots the feted Henry Chalfant at the crowded opening.
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo) Pictured here is Mare 139 standing before his quote is printed on the left wall. “We may have lost the trains, but we’ve gained the whole world.”
Henry Chalfant. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Mr. Chalfant at the exhibition. HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987. The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The Bronx, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

HENRY CHALFANT: ART VS. TRANSIT, 1977 – 1987 is currently on view at The Bronx Museum of the Arts until March 2020. This exhibition is free and open to the public. Click HERE for further details, schedule of events, and hours of operation.

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BSA Film Friday: 10.04.19

BSA Film Friday: 10.04.19

Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.

Now screening :
1. Gross Domestic Product – Banksy
2. New Stop Animation Project from Caledonia Curry AKA Swoon.
3. Henry Chalfant “Art vs Transit 1977-1987” Bronx Museum of the Arts
4. Street Art Summer Round-Up – 2019 from Fifth Wall TV / Doug Gillen

BSA Special Feature: Gross Domestic Product – Banksy

The doublespeak of Banksy very effectively demanded a whirlwind of media attention in the art/Street Art world once again this week. The anti-capitalist launched a full street-side exhibition while his personal/anonymous brand benefitted by the new record auction price of 9.9 million pounds with fees for one of his works depicting a “Devolved Parliament” full of apes – precisely during the height of inpending Brexit hysteria.

Gross Domestic Product / Banksy Installation. Video Courtesy Ash Versus


New Stop Animation Project from Caledonia Curry AKA Swoon.

Street Artist Swoon (Caledonia Curry) has been pushing her creative limits in a medium she is not known for, and the results are exhilarating.

Facing a backlog of fears and eager to go out of her comfort zones of that include linotype printing and wheat-pasting on the street – and the many projects building community – her last two years of study in stop animation are ready to be seen. Present her narrative practice and character in a surprising new way, Swoon takes chances bravely, and is ready to share her new work.

Her new exhibition with Jeffery Deitch is coming up in New York – but today we offer a sneak peek of what the deep diving Swoon has discovered.

Henry Chalfant “Art vs Transit 1977-1987” Bronx Museum of the Arts

Its here and the reviews have been glowing. One of the originals in documenting and providing platforms to artists and participants of art on the streets and trains, Henry Chalfant is please to present an impressive retrospective through next spring at Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Street Art Summer Round-Up – 2019 from Fifth Wall TV / Doug Gillen

Hop into the Doug soup of insight, mangled pronunciation and zealous fannery for projects and Street/public art concepts he wants you to remember from this summer.

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

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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