Nassau museum brings “Glamorous Graffiti” to Long Island

Cosmic cavern by Kenny Scharf at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, NY.Cosmic cavern by Kenny Scharf at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, NY.

By Michaela Christman and Jim Ferchland

Psychedelic murals, cosmic designs and images of distorted cartoons at an art museum in Nassau County are unordinary, especially for the quaint town of Roslyn, whose museum usually exhibits pieces by Monet, Picasso and the likes.

Spray painted murals like “For the Mass Media, Part II, 1984” by well-known graffiti artist, Crash, pop off of the canvas with flamboyant mixtures of bright blue, shades of orange and red details to form a woman’s face—replacing the work of modern artists that once were exhibited there.

"For the Mass Media, 1984" by graffiti artist, Crash. Photo credit: Doris Meadows.

“For the Mass Media, 1984” by graffiti artist, Crash. Photo credit: Doris Meadows.

The new exhibition, “Glamorous Graffiti: Basquiat, Crash, Haring & more” opened to the public at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor two weeks ago.

“Glamorous Graffiti, that’s a funny name,” Lady Pink, a New York City based graffiti and mural artist said in an email.

Graffiti art, or street art, once was, and still is considered a form of vandalism to some. To others, “graffiti is a form of art, which is why it has been making its way into museums for decades now,” Lady Pink said. Now, the standout art form is making its way out to Long Island’s Nassau County Museum of Art in the village of Roslyn.

“People started to take a liking to graffiti and saw it as an art and not just a crime, and then it made its way into museums,” Doris Meadows, who works with public relations and publicity at the Nassau County Museum of Art, said. Meadows has been with the museum of 16 years now.

“Both graffiti artists/writers started putting their work on canvas and galleries and museums slowly became interested,” Dr. Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore, said. “Some street artists like Banksy became infamous and his works now commanded large amounts of money. It’s a unique type of art that has emerged over the past four decades,” Dr. Ross said.

Ross authored the book “Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art” that was published in November 2015.

“It has been well established in art practice for more than a century,” Joe Austin, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, said. “The crimes of graffiti art are a more radical step within a long tradition of rebellion within modern art,” he added.

Austin is the author of “Taking the Train: How Graffiti Art Became An Urban Crisis in New York City,” and other graffiti art publications.

Austin added that “purely creating art” can be a form of social rebellion. ”I’m not saying that graffiti art’s criminal aspects are “nothing new,” but rather, the “crimes” of graffiti art are a “more radical” (we might say, “next logical”) step within a long tradition of rebellion within modern art.”

Some experts on graffiti and street art do not believe that artists are trying to get any kind of message across.

“No. the answer is no. There is not a message graffiti artists are trying to get across other than maybe “public space is public” or “we’ve endured,” Dr. Gregory Snyder, author of “Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York’s Urban Underground,” said.

Glamorous Graffiti from Michaela Christman on Vimeo.

While walking through the graffiti exhibition at the Roslyn museum, aside from noticing the fluorescent pieces that pop, your eye also is drawn in by the artist names.

Many of the artists go by interesting aliases like Futura 2000, A-One and Toxic, to name a few. Lady Pink chose her name in high school with the help of her friends.

“My friends in high school decided I should have a female name. The first name I chose was a boys name; it was my boyfriend’s name. They said that I should show the world that I’m a female. So, Pink is very feminine, and also you can stylize the letters well,” Lady Pink, whose real name is Sandra Fabara, said.

“Since fame itself is a commodity in art, it makes sense that graffiti artists used their name and image to promote their work,” Dr. Snyder said.

Visitors can witness the radical 70’s and 80’s graffiti art pieces at the exhibition until July 10, or visit a new “Rooftop Graffiti” gallery in Bridgehampton until April 24th.