|The 1981 exhibition Beyond Words held in the fourth-floor gallery of the then super-trendy Mudd Club stands out as a conspicuous point in the long road that brought subway art to art-world legitimacy. Curated by Fab 5 Fred Braithwaite and Keith Haring, the exhibition lives on today through this brightly colored, silk-screen poster by John Sex, and a small, offset announcement card by Futura 2000.
Those who attended Beyond Words witnessed the merging of uptown and downtown trends. The exhibition brought together the outer-borough graffiti artists connected to the art space Fashion Moda in the South Bronx, the film Wild Style, and the Fun Gallery in the East Village, side by side with the new generation of young artists from the downtown underground centered around the School of Visual Arts, Club 57 and the Mudd Club. Beyond Words was the fullest manifestation of a trend seen earlier at the 1980 Times Square Show (where Braithwaite and Haring met), and the New York/New Wave exhibition at P.S. 1 that closed only days before the opening of Beyond Words.
Among the artists in Beyond Words were Crash, Daze, Rammellzee, Samo (Jean-Michel Basquiat), Dondi, Futura 2000, Phase II, Fred Braithwaite, Charlie Ahearn, Lee Quinones, Lady Pink, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, Tseng Kwong Chi, Iggy Pop, Alan Vega, Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, Zephyr and others.
Graffiti based, rooted and inspired art continues to thrive today. Among current exhibitions: Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip Hop Generation at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (October 18 – May 16) and Futura 2000 / Futura 2020 at the Eric Firestone Gallery (October 22 – December 23.) Also don’t miss the 1984 videotape Graffiti / Post-Graffiti recently posted on Vimeo.