I first saw this book on Ket’s Instagram at the end of 2013, and thought I’d pick it up. It’s a collection of graffiti art by Martin Wong, who was an artist involved in the New York art scene from the end of the 70s until the 90s. The collection was donated to the City of New York’s permanent collection in 1994. It comprises of 300 canvases and 50 black books from the golden era of NY graffiti. All were previously unpublished.
The hardback book is decently designed and the paper quality is good. It’s quite a thick book at 240 pages. It’s a mixture of large format images, with quite a bit to read too, with commentary from Charlie Ahearn, Lee, Daze, Sharp and others.
Wong worked at an art store in the lower east side, which was frequented by all the big names of the day. According to the book he’d basically steal art supplies for the writers that came in, or give them away at vastly reduced rates.
His dream was to own a graffiti museum to house his collection, and did so in 1989 by opening up ‘The Museum of American Graffiti’ in NY. For reasons not stated in the book it lasted for a few months only.
The book features photos from people like Jon Naar, Cooper and Chalfont. While we’ve seen most of the photos plenty of times before, they help to put the collection into context.
One of the highlights for me was this collection of 70s tags from Wicked Gary. How Wong managed to convince him to part with these isn’t mentioned.
Another part of the collection I enjoyed was Lee’s section. Pretty much everything I’ve seen from Lee from the laste 70s / early 80s period has been killer, and the pieces in the book are just that. Anything with a connection to Spraycan art seems to hold more weight (at least in my eyes). A couple of studies for the famous Howard the Duck handball court are featured.
There are also 3 amazing sketches for the ‘Lion’s Den’ handball court mural that he did in ’82.
There are several Futura pieces in the collection. As to be expected Lenny comes correct with some mindblowing pieces.
While I wouldn’t call him a writer as such, there’s a good selection of pieces from Keith Haring in the collection, and some collabs from his short period working with LA2.
The collection has a dozen or so pieces from out-there spray wizard RAM:ELL:ZEE.
There are some nice creative bits from A-One who died at the end of the 90s. I wasn’t super familiar with his gallery work before this, but it’s very nice.
The book ends off with a run through Wong’s 50(!) blackbooks. How he convinced people to give away their entire blackbooks isn’t explicitly stated, but I expect large sums of cash played a part. Amongst the collection is Daze’s first black book. The book’s paper actually changes to a matt stock for this section which I thought was a nice touch. Although the quality of the blackbook work is good, alot of the feaured pieces are relatively simple signatures that look like they were picked up at shows.
Noc & Part
Some doodles from the Stylemaster General himself.
Jon One doing what he does best…
City as Canvas – The Martin Wong Collection
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