Joseph Nahmad Contemporary proudly presents “DEEP SPACE,” a survey of vernacular street art focused on the works of Matta, Rammellzee, Futura, and Phase 2, curated by Nemo Librizzi and Joseph Nahmad, opening on November 9, 2012 at 450 West 14th Street, New York City. The exhibition aims to critically examine the public’s understanding of street art through a historical and multi-generational lens, connecting the visual language of these four renowned artists.
Asking the viewer to dispense with all preconceived notions of street art’s meaning and makers and begin anew on an art historical journey beginning with Matta’s politically charged large-scale paintings of the 1970s. Deep Space suggests extraordinary similarities of style, technique, and intention between the canonized work of the Chilean-born artist and that of the New York City subway writers of the 1980s.
With a penchant for social reform, Matta created the large-scale mural The First Goal of the Chilean People, celebrating the 1971 victory of Socialist president Salvador Allende. When General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup took power in 1973, sixteen coats of house-paint were plastered over the mural. While the authorities were erasing Matta’s mural in Chile, Phase 2, Rammellzee, and Futura were painting the first full cars on the subways of New York City. The three street artists were all too familiar with their work being erased, not by paint, but by the Coney Island train yard acid baths. These three young street artists of the 1980s pioneered a new form of “art for the people,” removing the typical pretention surrounding art and writing on everyday objects found in New York City.
Perhaps the father of street writing, Phase 2 developed the iconic style of bubble letters. Over time, his writing evolved into “hieroglyphic calligraphic abstraction,” deconstructing the alphabet to its most basic form. His writings inspired Rammellzee’s theories, Gothic Futurism and Iconoclast Panzerism, which symbolically challenged the role of letters and language in society. Futura’s writing in the 70s and 80s, further evolved both Phase 2 and Rammellzee’s writing styles.
Deep Space features large-scale canvases by all four artists, conveying their similar spiritual journeys, vernacular and visual language, and rebellious attitude. Alluding to the theoretical, symbolic, and historical connections between the four artists, the exhibition challenges the viewer to consider the historical and social implications of writing.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a full length publication including essays by Justin Spring and Nemo Librizzi.
Joseph Nahmad Contemporary is a unique hybrid gallery that re-imagines the relationships of artists, dealers, collectors, and the public. Unlike the fixed location “white box” gallery that has long been the standard environment for exhibiting art, Joseph Nahmad presents artists’ works in unexpected contexts and venues.
Nemo Librizzi is an artist and filmmaker from New York City. Growing up in a fine art background, his childhood was devoted to tagging subway trains. He knew it was just a matter of time before the art establishment accepted graffiti as an important new phase in the western tradition. Decades later, he saw that the greatest talents of this culture were still being labeled by critics as "street artists" as if it were some criminal accusation. If the movement were to be properly represented, he felt he would have to join in the effort.