Vandal Folk Art, Old and New Letterings


By Tanya Silverman

Silkscreen Print. By Easy.

Timebomb: Three Decades of Style Writing at Brooklyn gallery Urban Folk Art showcases three generations of graffiti artists.

Curator Queen Andrea lays out the timeline of the Timebomb talents, from Part, who “started his career in 1974 when graffiti was prominent on trains,” going through true “hardcore vandals” whose “names have been prolifically written all over the city from the ‘80s to the ‘90s until now.” She herself is a member of the newer generation that’s more focused on stylized form.

“That comes from the progression of graffiti as a whole,” she says. “It’s starting to become more refined whereas back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the styles were just emerging.”

Cheetah. By Queen Andrea. Glicee Print on Archival Paper.

The artists’ new, original paintings hang around the gallery’s walls. The eclectic pieces go from Duel’s wildly colorful graphic collages of checkers, foreign lettering, and dripping paint merged into a single canvas, to Noah’s detailed works of graffiti-meets-stipple through geometric black-and-white techniques. Queen Andrea’s bright and bold “whimsical letter explorations” show her polished design sense of writing out lyrics or statements, while Ket draws his name over canvases of chosen newspaper articles.

Some of the most important works displayed at Timebomb, she says, are by Easy, who she terms as a “legendary graffiti artist” focused on vandalism. He helped launch the actual definition of bombing–marking simple forms over lots of surfaces in an area–a practice that took off after graffiti moved away from the city’s trains.

“When the MTA and the city did what’s called ‘the buff’ and tried to eliminate subway graffiti, it had to move to the streets,” she says, “and he’s one of people that created the blueprint of how that was going to work.”

Mainly set outside, Easy stayed focused on his street art, not interested in the indoor offerings of gallery exposure. Making a rare appearance at Urban Folk Art is therefore notable, and Easy even collaborated with Queen Andrea to make a silkscreen.

Though graffiti is still regarded as something of a later species of modern art, it certainly encompasses its own folk culture evolving through the ages while recognizing its roots.