Hip hop culture was born in New York, specifically the Bronx and Brooklyn. It’s a very fluid coming together of 4 basic elements: rapping, DJing, breakdancing, and street art. This culture has had such a vast impact on the whole world that there have been books and essays and studies done on it. It’s one of the movements that has put New York on the modern cultural map and I couldn’t visit the city without checking out the local scene.
My own interest in street art was born out of seeing samples of banksy’s work in the UK, reading some books by him and seeing Exit Through The Gift Shop, a documentary with a very interesting back story, about the global street art scene as seen up close and personal. I knew that street art was a global thing but to actually go back to where it all began? That was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
Thankfully, I was staying with a friend who was heavily into street art as well and she managed to help me find the best places to see the latest art on the walls of the industrial estates, disused warehouses and other random buildings of Queens and Brooklyn. Most of these pictures are from Bushwick and 5Pointz, as well as a few from a block party I attended in Queens.
The thing about street art is, it’s the most underground aspect of hip hop. It’s the only one that’s illegal, for one thing. For another, its also incredibly easy to pick up on – you see a tag on a wall and can immediately appreciate it. Even if you don’t particularly like the style, you can admire the placement, or the risk it may have taken to accomplish – both from the law as well as from the danger of placing such visible art in an inaccessible place.
There’s also the impermanent nature of such art that draws me to it. You may see the work of a genius, someday, but the very next time you visit it, it may be painted over by some amateurish fool – and yet, this is the point of it. Like a mandala of sand created painstakingly by Tibetan monks, the very act of creating this art is a statement about how nothing stays the same. And both the mandala and the graffiti come to the same end – wiped away soon after creation, to make way for something new.
If you’re interested in this art form, I’d urge you to see Style Wars, Bomb It and, of course, Exit Through The Gift Shop. You should also read these books on / by Banksy – You Are An Acceptable Level Of Threat, Wall & Piece and Banksy Locations & Tours Volume 1: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs in London, England
Finally, here are the pictures I took in New York: