Pre-Show Talk: "From Abstraction to Aerosol: The Origins of Graffiti in American Art"


Location: Philbin Studio Theatre, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (View on map )

Nicole Woods, assistant professor of Art, Art History & Design

In the early 1950s, a vanguard new art movement emerged in New York City. Never formally associated, or stylistically similar, the artists known as “Abstract Expressionists” or “The New York School” did, however, share some common assumptions. Among others, painters such as Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), Franz Kline (1910–1962), Lee Krasner (1908–1984), and others, advanced bold inventions in a search for meaningful content. Breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches—and in doing so, valued spontaneity and improvisation as critical to the creative process. 

Comparably, in the late 1970s-1980s, another class of American artists emerged from the subcultures of hip-hop, punk, surfing, skateboarding, queer and racial politics, in Venice Beach, Brooklyn, and the Lower East Side to produce large-scale works and drawings that combined clever wordplay in various languages with a panoply of signature images in bright colors spray-painted on subway walls, dilapidated fences, and other signs of urban blight. This brief introduction to the history of graffiti art, through postmodern figures like Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), looks to unpack the work of founding graffiti artists around two basic inclinations related to the history of Abstract Expressionism: an emphasis on dynamic and energetic gesture in a highly abstracted, spiritualist mode.

Free and open to the public; no tickets required for the talk.

Performances of FTT's production of THIS IS MODERN ART, by Idris Goodwin & Kevin Coval, run Wednesday, November 10 - Saturday, November 13 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 14 at 2:30 pm. 

Caption: Portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat in St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1983. Photo by Lee Jaffe/Getty Images.

Originally published at