This September 25, 2019, the Bronx Museum of the Arts will be opening up a new exhibition called, Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987. Henry is a renowned photographer who is most known for his work on graffiti, breakdance, and overall street culture. This exhibition is about all of this, but there’s a particular focus on the subway car art that was once ubiquitous in New York City.
There’s also a Kickstarter campaign if you’d like to support this exhibition. What struck me as I watched the campaign video, was that the “urban street culture” of this era doesn’t seem to exist in quite the same way today (or maybe I’m missing it). In the video, Henry talks about things like the birth of hip hop, which he documented outside, on the street.
We shouldn’t forget that New York was also a scary place at this time. Removing the subway art that Henry fastidiously documented was one of the ways in which the city is thought to have broken its patterns of crime. But at the same time, there’s something really special about new ideas forming out in the public realm.
It’s also a uniquely urban phenomenon.