Beyond The Streets Hits Up Brooklyn with Monumental Graffiti and Street Art Exhibition

Words & photos by Jon “Porkchop” Nicholson with photos by Glenn Joyce

The other day, at our beloved Local, I met a 55-year-old named Jimmy with a totally fucked up knee, with a history of surgery, who wanted to skate with his son so badly that he padded up and braved the elements, despite the risk of losing it all. When I say all – I mean – losing a job, losing mobility. That’s a lot to lose for getting loose. When I saw the Rat Bones tattoo on his calf, he was telling me how his son did the tattoo. My lady did mine. It was one of her first. After talking to Jimmy, I had to get a tattoo selfie…

Jimmy and Porkchop’s Rat Bones tattoos. Photo courtesy Porkchop

There’s something about the Rat Bones symbol for me and, when I got to attend the opening of the Beyond the Streets exhibit currently on show in Brooklyn, New York, for the summer, I finally got to shake the hand of creator of the Rat Bones image – C.R. Stecyk III. 

C.R. Stecyk Wall of Art featuring Rat Bones and more. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

I discovered the Rat Bones logo at the age of 11, and I can’t remember if I first saw the “Bones Brigade Video Show” or the Glen E. Friedman portrait of Darren Robinson aka “The Human Beatbox” in my sister’s copy of “Black Beat“, but there was an instant attraction to the symbol that made me want THAT BOARD.

The Powell Peralta Rat Bones skateboard wasn’t connected to any one person like a “professional model”. Between age 9 and 12, I had no idea about any kind of industry behind skateboarding or that the people on skateboards that I occasionally saw in “BMX Plus” were professionals getting paid to skate and sell boards. It’s 1984 and I’m a kid. The only stuff on my 11-year-old mind is “Top Secret!”, “The Ice Pirates”, “Beat Street”, various action figures, comics and “Fangoria“, Legos, watching Saturday morning cartoons followed by “American Bandstand”, “Soul Train” and “Dance Party USA”, before leaving the crib, meeting up with the posse and doing who knows what until it got dark outside. 

Then the “Bones Brigade Video Show” turned my little circle of friends’ world upside down. At age 9, a skateboard was another toy. By age 11, it became the only thing. Stacy Peralta smashing a television like he was Wendy O from the Plasmatics, pulling that Rat Bones model out of the wreckage like he was Georges Méliès, killed me. I thought, “The Human Beatbox” from the Fat Boys has one. I’ve gotta have it. This is gonna be the board that sets me apart from the crowd. It’s not like my Roller Derby, take note.” There was also this idea that I was gonna see a Rat Bones on a wall somewhere in the world and know that I’m in the right place – there are skateboarders here.

C.R. Stecyk III with his art at Beyond The Streets in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

It’s a real thrill to see Stecyk’s Rat Bones image put into greater context with the history of wall and train graffiti, its relation to Punk & Hip Hop and the relationship with the social and socio-economic issues of the day that tie all of this together with the history of fine art and advertising – birthing the most important art movement of the 20th century.

Train Graffiti tribute. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

Graffiti Vandalism as fine art in galleries is almost as old as the art itself, but Beyond The Streets is the most comprehensive history of graffiti and street art to date. There might be a thousand Rat Bones tattoos on people while tens of thousands have scrawled it onto a surface with a magic marker or spray paint all over the planet, yet like the 1%r patch, it is the sign of the chosen few.

C.R. Stecyk’s wall and spray paint can collection. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

While the P.O.P. Pig variants of what would become the Rat Bones symbol were popping up around Venice, California in the late 60’s and early 70’s, on the other side of America, in NYC and Philadelphia, junior high-aged kids were leaving signatures on the walls, buses and subway trains of the city.

Train layups. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

Magic markers gave way to spray paint, and signatures got bigger and bigger until BOOM – Super Kool 223 paints the first top to bottom signature on a subway train. At the Beyond The Streets exhibit, there’s a great photo archive of train and wall photos from Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) that showcases this mostly forgotten generation of writing pioneers. 

U.G.A. art. Photo courtesy Porkchop

The Faith of Graffiti (1973) by Norman Mailer is the first book to document the NYC graffiti writing movement of 1972, but the writers interviewed speak of earlier times. Beyond the Streets starts there. 

First generation NY writers. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Lance Mountain said something great about how your generation in skateboarding starts the minute that you start participating in it. While talking to first generation NY writers, MIKE 171, SJK 171, JEC-1, FDT 56, and SNAKE 1, I think about my own history participating in Chicago’s graffiti scene, starting as a “late comer”, learning my first graffiti alphabet at age 13 from my older sister’s boyfriend, Sunni, who learned his alphabet from this cat called ORKO, an early 80s Chicago writer who would eventually become part of the SF Bay Area graffiti scene that Barry TWIST McGee was part of.

Porkchop and SNAKE 1. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Any writer from my generation can tell you about their lineage, who showed them an alphabet, who gave them a name, or maybe they chose one for themselves. I was a late comer and didn’t start participating in the act of hitting up at age 15-16. I was just writing some tags and punk related “fuck you” type of mischief. I really started hitting my stride at 18-19, while most of The Faith of Graffiti era writers were sneaking into train yards and exploring subway layups at 10 years old, becoming masters at 15.

Porkchop and GEE-1. Photo courtesy Porkchop

I saw a book called The History of American Graffiti that I wasn’t hip to before GEE-1 (from NYC’s first wave Graffiti Writers starting in the mid to late 60’s) turned the page to the Chicago and Milwaukee chapters, blowing my mind and triggering all sorts of memories!

Art by Cornbread Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

I also got to meet Cornbread from Philadelphia who was writing as early as 1965, retired by 1972. Philly and NYC’s timelines run side by side like race horses. Steve ESPO Powers informed my generation about Philly’s early Style writing history in his fanzine “On The Go” in the 90’s. Graffiti history is a secret history and the Beyond The Streets exhibit is a peak behind the curtain, giving the curious a chance to learn about the roots. 

John Fekner art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

In 1976, the multimedia artist John Fekner was using paint and stencils to bring attention to the dystopian world that we see everyday. Along with Gordon Matta-Clark, they used the city’s decay as a medium. 

A-ONE sculpture by John Ahearn

Anthony Clark (1964-2001) Aka A-ONE’S graffiti inspired spray paint on canvas from 1981, along with John Ahearn’s sculptural bust of said artist gives me a sense of what it might have been like to know him. 

“Flashlight (In Collaboration with A-One)” by Jenny Holzer, “Beyond The Streets”

A-ONE was the youngest artist to participate in La Biennale di Venezia, Italy’s oldest international art exhibition. His generation of writers is the generation that made graffiti a worldwide phenomenon. 

John Ahearn sculpture. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

A-One was friends with John Ahearn, whose sculptural busts are on as many walls in NYC as they are in museums and private art collections all over the world. In yet another branch of the street art family tree, John’s twin brother “Charlie Video” made the seminal film “Wild Style”

INTEL and Charlie Ahearn. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Charlie Ahearn walked us through one of his paintings, which read like an old map of the Lower East Side and the locations of extinct but historic handball court murals of Lee Quiñones (that were made famous in the book “Spraycan Art” by James Prigoff and Henry Chalfant 1987) who also has a place in the Beyond The Streets show recreating one of his favorite whole cars, based on and dedicated to the television show Soul Train, originally painted when Lee was 15 years old. The map also depicts the location of the amphitheater where the great jam happens in Wild Style, which was also painted by Lee.

Lee Quinones “Soul Train” recreation. Photo courtesy Porkchop

For me, seeing Lee Quiñones recreation of his Soul Train car and learning about the UGA from the writers that were part of it was a highlight of the Beyond The Streets show.

Coco 144 art. Photo courtesy Porkchop

As graffiti writing in the streets become paintings on canvas, you literally see the United Graffiti Artists paintings and stencils of early spray paint master, COCO 144….

Style Wars Car by NOC 167 with Door Open, Man Reading Newspaper, 96th Street Station, New York, NY, 1981. (photo © Martha Cooper)

…morph into the earliest attempts at using spray paint to capture surreal and photo realistic qualities like the work of NOC 167, DAZE and CRASH…

Fab 5 Freddy. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

Also featured is the work of Fred Brathwaite aka FAB 5 FREDDY, which speaks to the inspirations that would help to energize hip hop, drawing on the importance of Bruce Lee, Jack Johnson and Marcus Garvey to the culture.

Joseph Conzo exhibit of “The Message”. Photo courtesy Porkchop

There’s a raw dignity in JOSEPH CONZO’s snapshots of the party people and the Cold Crush Brothers that look like figure studies for Kehinde Wiley paintings. Among the Hip Hop ephemera of cassette tapes, sits an original handwritten copy of the 1982 breakout rap sensation “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (featuring Melle Mel and Duke Bootee). The penmanship is so incredibly beautiful and consistent, this very paper could represent Hip Hop’s Magna Carta. It’s almost ironic that it would be scrawled onto a legal pad. 

Crash art and on the opposing wall, Lady Pink art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

Wandering the showroom floor, I bumped into Lady Pink, who I’ve known about since Subway Art. She’s gone from painting trains to becoming a world class painter. During my time in college, Lady Pink came to my school and gave a lecture complete with a slide show on subway and freight train graffiti, photography, feminism, grass roots community organizing, visual communication, mural art and hip hop culture.

Martha Cooper photo. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

There’s this whole list of things that we were told would bring us no place good, yet it’s bought me to this fantastic art opening that was kicked off with a speech by actress/community activist/arts patron: Rosie Perez. She explained that even though she didn’t have the guts to write her name on any walls, her friends sure did. This is the art that makes her heart beat. This is her art movement. This is NYC’s gift to the world. Her friends are all up in the show. They are all of the people that you see in the book “Subway Art” by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper (who are also in the show).

HAZE art. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Rosie’s husband HAZE has some of the finest oil paintings of Brooklyn’s Dominos Sugar Factory ever painted in this show not to mention a Beastie Boys LICENSED TO ILL skateboard model that he did the graphic for that was made for Vision Skateboards. Who fucking knew? Not me. When I saw it, I screamed. A dude standing by me was like, “You’ve never seen that?” Fuck NO! He said that maybe there were 100 made. After the band members and their homies get theirs, and those connected with the Def Jam get theirs – who in the general public gets to see this deck? Not many. At least I got to see the tour. Now, I’ve seen both- Ha ha! I win! 

Beastie Boys memorabilia and Licensed to Ill skateboard sketch by HAZE.

The Beastie Boys were skaters and they helped bridge a gap between Hardcore Punk and Rap. ZEPHYR & HAZE were skating pools while they were painting trains in the Bronx with Andy KESS Kessler (1961-2009) and Jaime “Puppethead” Affoumado aka RUST 1 as members of historic crews Mission Graffiti and Rolling Thunder Writers. There’s a documentary called Deathbowl to Downtown (2008) that helped connect the lines between NYC’s first pool skaters and the train writing movement.   

Wall art at Beyond The Streets. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Getting down with graffiti art is like skateboarding. It’s full of self-made people. When you start, you have no clue that you suck. You can do it by yourself or with a group. Time and dedication determine your fate. 

Beastie Boys memorabilia and Cookie Puss album cover. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

The list of artists is vast… CEY Adams went from painting trains to designing the record cover for the Beastie Boys’ transitional record “Cookie Puss” to becoming a top shelf art director, branding out too many artists to name, while maintaining a fine art career. Self made. He studied and hung out with Haring and Basquiat. The cross connections with all of these artists reads like a conspiracy theory.  

REAS art. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Todd REAS James’ installation is a favorite, recalling my final days of living at home, when it was a regular thing to get together with the crew to hang, draw in black books, Design and Prismacolor markers out, sketching… We’d listen to tapes, maybe mix some records… fuck around scratching if one of your friends was an aspiring DJ… and watch Videograff

Barminski installation. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

I was a hardcore kid, so we were always listening to records and drawing. Bill Barminski’s installation brings you back to that place where you are encouraged to examine and touch everything. If you’ve littered the floor with comic books, loose papers and records, you would feel at home here. For me, this could be my teenage bedroom. It’s part nostalgia, part discovery. For those on the outside, wanting to come in, it can serve as a living history, a blueprint.

Barminski’s astronaut helmet. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Barminski’s installation was so fun. It’s always great when people can interact with the artwork! There are GI Joe toys, skateboards, Punk zines, an Astronaut helmet, TV and radios… Everything works and most things make noise. I took delight in being the first of many to wear the astronaut helmet. 

KC Ortiz art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

Other highlights of the Beyond The Streets show, for me, included seeing my old friend KC Ortiz and his artistic developments… I met KC Ortiz in the Chicago Hardcore scene. The end of my generation is the beginning of his. Over the years, watching his art, EARSNOT and Jason REVOK, develop from hardcore illegal street and transit graffiti styles to studio art practices that bear little resemblance to their lives as writers, yet there are hints. 

Swoon art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

It was also great to see @Swoonhq who never stops that stream of fire that inspires us all…

Mr. Kunle F Martins art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

Mr. Kunle F Martins has made a totally solid transition from the streets to the studio with strong work that speaks on a multitude of issues.

Kilroy was here. Photo courtesy Porkchop

“Kilroy Was Here” and who the fuck is Kilroy anyways and how did he get all over the planet? 

Futura art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

The Beyond The Streets exhibit takes you from the early days of street art to beyond the now and into the future…

Futura 2000, DOZE GREEN, and Charlie Ahearn art. Photo courtesy Beyond The Streets

….through the deep space of FUTURA 2000’s Gothic Futurism, to DOZE GREEN’s organic psychedelia, to NINA CHANEL ABNEY’s 8 bit technicolor depiction of a person of color in the nude trapped in the age of quarrel.

NINA CHANEL ABNEY. Photo courtesy Porkchop

Beyond The Streets is a wonderful celebration of our culture! Thanks a million Juice Magazine for the chance of a lifetime to see such an exhibition before the rest of the world! I feel very privileged. ♥️ Go see this.

TATS CRU mural features works of Bronx artists Bio, BG183, and Nicer. (Photo Glenn Joyce)

BEYOND THE STREETS NYC celebrates “mark makers and rule breakers with a 100,000 square foot showcase of work by more than 150 artists from around the world, curated by Roger Gastman, in partnership with adidas Originals and adidas Skateboarding.”

Bast . Paul Insect. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce
Beyond The Streets Press Preview. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce
Kenny Scharf. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce
Ron English. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce
Patrick Martinez. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce
MADSAKI. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce
Cleon Peterson. Photo courtesy Glenn Joyce

====== Press Release ======

adidas Originals & adidas Skateboarding Partner With BEYOND THE STREETS To Takeover NYC for Summer 2019

Following the success of its Los Angeles residency, adidas Originals and adidas Skateboarding partner to bring the monumental graffiti and street art exhibition, BEYOND THE STREETS (BTS) to New York next month. The expansive graffiti and street art exhibition will celebrate the city that catapulted the artform onto the world stage.

Buddy Esquire. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

The three stripes in partnership with BTS, continues its mission to elevate street culture and defy conventions taking residence at the new Twenty Five Kent building in North Williamsburg. Spanning over 100,000 square feet, the waterfront exhibition will feature works from over 150 artists that includes a massive collection of paintings, sculptures, photography and custom installations, along with performances, lectures, and films.

FREEDOM mural recreation. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

Celebrating a culture of creativity is at the heart of what we do. The three stripes have long served as the unofficial uniform of graffiti artists throughout the movement’s history,” says adidas Skateboarding Senior Communications Manager Cullen Poythress. “Having the ability to celebrate some of the original pioneers of graffiti and street art through BEYOND THE STREETS and inspire the next generation with their stories is a special opportunity.”

Pose. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

adidas Originals and adidas Skateboarding will lead a full schedule of exciting programming during the three-month exhibition including a special project with the Beastie Boys, an installation by Mark Gonzales coupled with a charity dinner benefiting the Harold Hunter Foundation, and showcases that will bring adidas Originals’ classic DNA to life.

Beastie Boys memorabilia. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

The brand will also reveal a limited edition adidas x BTS collection, honoring New York City, which will be sold through the exhibition gift shop. The collaborative collection includes apparel, accessories, sticker packs and more. In addition, more than 150 items, books, and collectibles developed exclusively for the New York exhibition with participating artists will also be available for purchase. Curated pieces from the capsule and other collectibles will be sold at select NYC adidas Flagship locations and the Originals store in SoHo.

Beastie Boys collection. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

The exhibition will be on display through August 25, 2019 and is located at 25 Kent Ave, Brooklyn NY. Tickets and event information can be found via the BTS website.

1UP Crew. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

About adidas Originals

Inspired by the rich sporting heritage of adidas – one of the world’s leading sports brands and a global designer and developer of athletic footwear and apparel – adidas Originals is a lifestyle brand founded in 2001. With the adidas archive at its foundation, adidas Originals continues to evolve the brand’s legacy through its commitment to product innovation and its ability to filter the creativity and courage found on courts and sporting arenas through the lens of contemporary youth culture. Marked by the iconic Trefoil logo that was first used in 1972 and championed by those that continue to shape and define creative culture, adidas Originals continues to lead the way as the pioneering sportswear brand for the street.

Katsu. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

About adidas Skateboarding

adidas Skateboarding is a segment of adidas Originals, a division of the adidas Group. Founded in 1998, adidas Skateboarding creates footwear and apparel for skateboarders distributed through a global network of skateboarding retailers. The brand supports a group of elite and iconic professional and amateur skateboarders including Mark Gonzales, Dennis Busenitz and Na-Kel Smith.

Invader. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

About BTS/Roger Gastman

Roger Gastman is a curator, graffiti historian, urban anthropologist, and collector. BEYOND THE STREETS is Gastman’s dynamic follow-up to Art in the Streets, a graffiti and street art retrospective that broke MoCA Los Angeles’ attendance record with 220,000 visitors. Gastman founded and co-published Swindle magazine with Shepard Fairey, co-authored The History of American Graffiti and co-produced the Oscar-nominated Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.  

Sam Friedman. Photo credit: Beyond The Streets

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