Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence

Exhibition Website

Feb 11 2017 - May 7 2017

Modern graffiti as we know it began in New York City and Philadelphia in 1967, but it can now be found in far reaching corners of the globe. Today, graffiti and street art deeply inform and reflect different aspects of popular culture from music to advertising to film. Wall Writers presents the far-ranging origins from which this popular art form was born.

The exhibition includes an impressive array of materials and documentation that celebrate the early roots of pioneering street artists. High school notebooks of the artists, the first canvases painted, spray paint advertisements, commercial greeting cards, as well as richly documented images of buildings completely covered in spray-painted monikers reveal the context of this early movement. Tracing the origins of graffiti, the exhibition also presents the slow transition from art of the street to fine art, including some examples by established artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark and the photographer Jon Naar. Wall Writers also highlights some of the most prolific writers of the time, including TAKI 183 (who wrote in New York City) and Cornbread (who was in Philadelphia). The exhibition as a whole stands as an important historical narrative about the origins of one of the most prolific art movements of the twentieth century.

This comprehensively researched exhibition developed out of the 2016 documentary film and companion book of the same name, produced and directed by Roger Gastman. Wall Writers retraces the steps of teenagers over forty years ago and delves into this history using first-person accounts, historical records, and old photographs, among other material.

Approaching the fiftieth anniversary of graffiti as we know it, Wall Writers’ deep insight into the culture’s beginnings directly connects with the progression of creativity in contemporary art and its lasting impression. The goal is to inform, excite and educate while simultaneously celebrating this significant contribution to the history of modern art and culture.

Whether or not you go, the exhibition catalog, Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence, explores graffiti's eruption into mainstream society in the period of social turmoil in the late 1960s and early 70s, and takes a closer look not only at early graffiti s place on the wall but its place in the culture of the time. More comprehensive than any other book on the subject, Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence explores not only early graf writing itself but the writers creating it, the new technology of spray paint that made it possible, and the culture that drove them to write be it a need to rebel against the government, to pass a message, or simply be recognized by society. Hundreds of images of everything from spray paint advertisements to commercial greeting cards to images of buildings completely covered in spray painted monikers are included, and reveal the context of the beginnings of a movement that would eventually grow to transform city life, public transit, public art, and ultimately visual art the world over. Includes interviews and profiles of some of the most prolific writers of the time, including TAKI 183, Cornbread, and dozens more.

  • American
  • 20th Century
  • Culture / Lifestyle
  • Gordon Matta-Clark
  • Jon Naar
  • TAKI 183
  • Cornbread

Exhibition Venues & Dates