A little over a year ago two creative forces came together in a collaboration of mediums at the House of Art. The gallery show was called “Reflections of Hip Hop” and featured a series of framed photographs taken by legendary photographer, Jamel Shabazz and hung directly across from paintings done by illustrator Frank Morrison that mirror Jamel’s work.
Both the paintings and photographs are a historical account of the rise of Hip Hop. The predominantly black and white pictures were taken during the 80’s when graffiti was still considered pure vandalism by all except the ones producing it. However, Jamel truly captured the beauty of this medium by adding a human element to the work. One photograph featured a man with his hair half braided and the rest a-fro rolling a blunt while standing in front of a graffiti style mural of Jesus Christ. The irony is gravitating.
Another example of Jamel incorporating graff and history is present in a photograph of a young couple embracing each other affectionately on a train saturated with tags and illustrations all throughout the car. Jamel explains that utilizing graffiti in his photographs helps bring forth the tone and urban feel of his timeline of hip hop material. For his more recent work, in the past decade or so, Jamel has quite often used 5Pointz as a backdrop for his photography.
When referring to the graffiti Mecca Jamel tells us that not only has the building served as prop for his material but that many times he has been inspired by the ever changing art on the museum’s walls. The external art prompts the creation of many of his works.
“The ripple effect that 5Pointz has on today’s artistic culture is perfectly clear” Jamel exclaims. The exhibit at HOA reflects that beyond doubt. Illustrator and fine artist, Frank Morrison, one of America’s top urban artists created an entire gallery of paintings that were influenced down to the tiniest detail by the photographs taken by Shabazz; photographs directly and quite obviously inspired by 5Pointz and aerosol art in general.
Urban art is of great importance because it gives our generation of youths a voice; a voice that can, does, and will continue to make differences in the world. It’s up to us to insure that such a message be delivered.
The truth is that 5Pointz is indeed ever changing, and every mural there is eventually painted over. While some see this as contradiction to the efforts of the preservation of the building this element of change is one of the many beauties of this artistic haven. The constant change and rebirth of art is a reflection of the constant and also ever changing world which we live in; just as each mural is replaced by one more beautiful, more colorful than the one before, we hope that each change in life is more productive than the one prior.
Artists such as Jamel Shabazz and Frank Morrison can agree that 5Pointz is a testament that one good thing can be replaced by something great, and the more such acts are practiced the better our world and communities will be. “I’m completely in support of 5Pointz, and grateful that such a place exists” promises Shabazz, and for all his support and documentation we all thank him.