How Crash's Graffiti Went from Street to Screen to Gallery Walls

Joanne Artman Gallery
Aug 1, 2016 6:14PM

 John “Crash” Matos working on a live mural inspired by Netflix’s brand new series, The Get Down (Photos courtesy of: Rebecca Smeyne; Netflix)

Legendary graffiti artists John “Crash” Matos and Chris “Daze” Ellis are the graffiti consultants for Netflix’s series The Get Down (as well as longtime collaborators outside of the show)on which Nas is an executive producer and Grandmaster Flash is an associate producer. The series features two characters inspired by Crash and Daze, portraying their pivotal roles in what is now recognized as a defining cultural movement. Of the experience, Daze said, “this amazes me that our influence and inspiration has gone on a global level. It was our whole life for that period, but we didn’t realize at the time that it literally would be our whole lives.”

It’s no wonder that Crash was asked to consult on a show focusing on a group of teenagers coming of age in the hip-hop fueled Bronx of the late 70s. This is a world that Crash knows well. Born in 1961 in Bronx, New York, Crash was spray painting New York City subway trains by the age of thirteen. His distinct style and preference for murals rather than simple verbal “tags” made him an iconic part of the city's visual landscape. In 1980, he curated the breakthrough exhibition “Graffiti Art Success for America,” sealing his place at the head of the movement. By 1984, Crash was working alongside Keith Haring to create mural installations for the 5/5 Figuration Libre France/USA at the Musee d'art Moderne de la Villa de Paris.

The word “underground” inherently elicits notions of the illicit, of youthful indiscretion. With the rise of hip-hop music, graffiti art was the natural background. Watching old music videos, it’s hard to dissociate one from the other - the two went naturally hand in hand, yet graffiti didn’t get the official blessing due to it’s inherently illegal nature. At the same time, as hip hop artists were signing record deals, their visual art counterparts were getting their work destroyed off public and private property. Today though, that notion has been turned on its head with street art becoming synonymous in some cases with public art, and in other cases such as Banksy’s LA “Flower Girl” mural, going straight from the street to the auction house. Yet it’s the pioneers of the movement like Crash without whose artistic vision such recognition by the establishment would be impossible.

Represented at JoAnne Artman Gallery New York. 

Solo show: “Breaking Ground: Redefining the Urban Experience,” featuring John “CRASH” Matos, Sept. 8, 2016 – Oct. 31, 2016.

Artist Reception: September 8, 2016 from 6-8pm, RSVP's  949.510.5481

JoAnne Artman Gallery 511A West 22nd St. || New York, NY 10011

Joanne Artman Gallery