Henry Chalfant: Art vs Transit 1977-1987

The Henry Chalfant Art vs Transit 1977-1987 exhibit depicts the emergence of graffiti art in the Bronx through photographs shot by the "visual anthropologist." (Story by Yanibel Fernandez)

The exhibit, at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, is curated by the Spanish graffiti artist SUSO 33, who previously has hosted other exhibits of Henry Chalfant’s photographs.

The photos feature the work of Bronx graffiti artists such as Blade, Crash, DAZE, Dez, Kel, Mare, and SEEN among others.

Chalfant, a graduate of Stanford University, started as a sculptor.

He turned to photography and documented graffiti art and hip-hop during the ‘80s.

While visitors contemplated the photos of kids dancing, playing and graffiti, ‘80s hip-hop music could be heard from a radio located in a corner, setting the tone of the exhibit.

A short film, “Art vs Transit: The Photography of Henry Chalfant,” was also playing. The film, directed by David Jenkins, features Chalfant and graffiti artists talking about their art, and the experience of working together.

Chalfant has produced documentaries such as “Style Wars” and “From Mambo to Hip-Hop,” focusing on graffiti and the rise and fall of mambo and hip-hop music through different periods in Bronx history.

Visitors came from different boroughs to see the exhibit and remember their childhoods growing up in the ‘80s in New York. Jeremy White came from Manhattan to see the exhibit. “It’s a fantastic exhibit, because this was my childhood growing up during the ‘80s and playing outside with my brother, waiting for the trains to pass by to see the art.”

Faux subway cars - gray cardboard covered with graffiti – and sounds of stations added to the immersive environment.

Another visitor and former graffiti artist BIE came to see the display with his son Evan from Brooklyn. “This was my childhood growing up during the ‘80s, I was one of the kids playing like the ones on the pictures,” he said. “Now everyone is doing it [graffiti]. You search on Instagram and you will see many pictures.”

The exhibit will be on display until March 8, 2020 and visitors are welcome to a free screening of Chalfant's documentary "From Mambo to Hip-Hop on March 6.

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