City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the 70s & 80s

October 7, 2017-January 28, 2018

Lady Pink, The Death of Graffiti, 1982, acrylic on Masonite, 19 × 22 in. Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Martin Wong, 94.114.96.

Step onto the streets of New York City and experience one of the greatest collections of early graffiti art in City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the 70s & 80s.

Traveling to the IMA galleries from the Museum of the City of New York, City as Canvas features more than 100 works from the Martin Wong Collection and chronicles the origins of graffiti and its evolution from a creative outlet—viewed by many at the time as a public nuisance—to an accepted form of art. With intricate drawings, colorful works on canvas, and photographs of graffiti writing that have long since been erased, this exhibition includes a variety of seminal works by pioneering graffiti artists such as Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000.

In spite of the movement’s beginnings on the streets and subways of New York—as well as the city’s attempts to eradicate it—graffiti art quickly proliferated, forever impacting music, fashion, and visual culture. In the decades that followed, graffiti became heralded as an important new form of artistic expression and an international phenomenon.

Doug E. Fresh

The first human beatbox in the rap world, and still the best of all time, Doug E. Fresh amazed audiences with his note-perfect imitations of drum machines, effects, and often large samples of hip-hop classics. He was introduced to most hip-hop fans with his astonishing performance in the 1984 film Beat Street. By 1985, Fresh was one of the biggest names in rap music, and his first single “The Show/La Di Da Di,” became a hip-hop classic. Presented as part of City as Canvas.

City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the 70s & 80s was developed in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York.

City as Canvas is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. This exhibition is part of the IMA's ARTx series, made possible by a gift from the Efroymson Family Fund.

City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the 70s & 80s Indianapolis Museum of Art 4000 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, IN