What began as a chance to collaborate and paint with Suso33 became a flash point for Kel1st. In celebrating this surge of creativity born out of conflict, many people are brought together. How can we learn from and take advantage of what has become a global language?
“It’s a bit surreal, unbelievable… You can touch it.”Kel1st, Bronx, NY
Socio-economic conditions of New York City’s five boroughs during the second half of the 20th century became a unique incubator for urban trends that cannot be ignored. Put in context of history, today we can look upon Henry Chalfant’s diligent photographic records at full scale in his “Art is Not A Crime” exhibition. The Train-Legacy-Project was inspired by its expansive installation curated by Suso33 and made possible by Juan Carlos Moye Safra, the Director of CEART Museum, Centro de Arte de Tomás Valiente, in Fuenlabrada, Spain during the autumn of 2018.
Before he was Kel1st, he was Kel139. Writers often took their tag from the streets of New York City’s five boroughs they grew up on. While some traveled around the city, writers often claimed specific areas or train lines to focus their energies. The first train Kel139 painted was the Lexington Avenue line 6, Westchester Square, East Tremont Ave. Without knowing it, Henry Chalfant and Suso33 selected this car to reproduce as a blank canvas to work magic in support of their “Art is Not a Crime” exhibition. To Kel’s surprise, he found himself painting on his original first train.
The infamous Writer’s Corner, a.k.a the ‘Writers’ Bench’ of the Bronx is located at 149th Street and Grand Concourse Ave on the 2 and 5 train lines. It was a place, if you were in-the-know, you could meet legendary writers. It was also a meeting place for writers to exchange ideas and swap sketches, make plans for collaborations, and a place to ‘bench’ trains—trainspotting latest victories, what the different crews were up to, or making note of who ‘got crossed out.
Imagine entering a low lit space, with big square columns, as if underground. You hear the screeches of subway cars on their rails. The image of a graffiti-laden subway train pulls in and comes to a halt just as another one is pulling out of view. It’s a 1970’s classic. It pauses just enough time to take in the amazing skill of the writers or crew who had hit that car. Then, just as screechily, it pulls out. Immediately behind it, the next and the next… each car is equally impressive, yet from another year, another writer, team or crew. Impossible to comprehend, if it weren’t right in front on you. But it is real, part of the “Art is Not a Crime” retrospective.
The Birch Bend Conservancy & Artist Residency offers a refuge for young urban artists with intention and determination. A meeting of nature and art, the Residency is awarded to diligent youths who have demonstrated interest, focus and skills that have potential to move them beyond the streets. Overseen by trained artists and mentors, candidates are guided through a rigorous routine that involves harvesting their own organically grown foods, preparing meals, taking hikes, swimming, horseback-riding or skiing. By dedicating time to development of concentration and translation of ideas through various medium, community, a self-awareness is achieved that is outside the pressures of peers, culture, or environment.