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CITY OF KINGS: A History of New York City Graffiti

CITY OF KINGS: A History of New York City Graffiti

November 19, 2022 - December 31, 2022

Howl! Happening
6 East 1st Street
New York City, NY 10003 + Google Map

Exhibition in Two Parts: 

Howl! Happening: November 19  – January 15, 2023
(6 E 1st St, New York)

Howl! Arts/Howl! Archive: December 3  – January 29, 2023
(250 Bowery Second Floor, New York)


New York, NY: How did a subculture born on the streets of New York City evolve into a ubiquitous global phenomenon? From its origins in the late 1960s through today, the story of street art and graffiti in New York City is still being told. Creating a rich, visual contextualization of that history, Howl! Happening is pleased to present CITY OF KINGS – an exhibition tracing the historical chronology of graffiti’s emergence as an art form and elevating the under-recognized artists and other players who pushed the medium forward. The exhibition is held in two parts, the first at Howl! Happening and the second at Howl! Arts/Howl! Archive (HA/HA).

Curated by first-generation graffiti artist Al Díaz (who worked under the name Bomb One before partnering with Jean-Michel Basquiat to create the SAMO©… tag) with additional curation from graffiti archivist and artist  Eric ‘DEAL CIA’ Felisbret and art educator Mariah Fox, the exhibition features stories, photos, ephemera, videos, documentaries, and the accounts of historical experiences, many of which are previously unseen.

Grounded in personal narratives from the inventors, participants, and innovators who shaped graffiti culture over the last five-and-a-half decades, this exhibition highlights untold stories and lesser-known artists who contributed to graffiti’s emergence and spread across New York City’s five boroughs. At the heart of the exhibition is a timeline that offers a visual representation of how and where graffiti evolved, to indicate the flow of ideas and inspiration among artists and groups. The timeline also contextualizes the graffiti movement by referencing key historical events, such as the Son of Sam murders, street-gang activity, the financial decline of New York City, and efforts to “clean up” the city.

The chronological display creates a framework to help explain how graffiti has become so lodged and influential within our present popular culture. What makes this exhibit particularly unique is that the narrative is told through the lens, and voice of the actual players who created graffiti. An accessible, concise, clear account for the general public is long overdue in New York City, the “birthplace of graffiti culture.”

– Al Díaz, NYC. August 2022

In total, the exhibition features the contributions of dozens of graffiti artists, world-renowned photographers, collectors and archivists. The exhibition includes photographs, video, and audio recordings — some of which come from personal archives. Public programs and a series of panel discussions will hone in on themes and periods that evolved across time; touching on topics such as the movement’s roots, the evolution of graffiti styles and social and cultural practices.

CITY OF KINGS includes contributions from artists and historians including CoCo 144, Taki 183, Crash, LEE, Jay Edlin, Charlie Ahearn, FLINT, Carlo McCormick, and Martha Cooper.

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