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When Stefan Eins opened the art space Fashion Moda in the South Bronx, in 1978, he hoped that the unlikely setting, one of the country’s most devastated neighborhoods, would stir the creativity of his Downtown peers. One of the first to respond was John Ahearn, who in 1979 turned Fashion Moda into a workshop for making plaster casts of local residents. As Ahearn cast, painted, and hung these portraits at Fashion Moda, the whole neighborhood started to take notice. Ahearn’s residency culminated in a huge party celebrating the completed “South Bronx Hall of Fame”—an example of new community-based art practices.
Following John uptown was his twin brother, Charlie Ahearn, who quickly took note of the area’s nascent hip-hop movement, later the subject of his film Wild Style. In September 1980, Jane Dickson (Charlie’s wife) collaborated with local 18-year-old John “Crash” Matos on “City Maze,” an elaborate cardboard construction installed at Fashion Moda, painted by Crash and other neighborhood street artists.
Matos was responsible for Fashion Moda’s next exhibition: “G.A.S. (Graffiti Art Success for America),” which gave his pseudonymous peers an exhibition context beyond trains and walls, and put them in contact with more established Downtown artists. Fashion Moda became crucial in the story of graffiti, helping launch not just Crash but Lady Pink, Koor, Daze, Phase Two, and John Fekner—all of whose styles, spirit, and in-the-streets directness would indelibly transform the Downtown aesthetic.
See more at 40 Top Art Events of the Downtown Era, 1974–1992.