Galleria Varsi celebrates its first birthday by inviting BLADE, renowned artist and one of the most legendary figures of New York City Writing. This will be BLADE’s first show in Italy and he will open with a solo exhibition, KING OF GRAF, curated by Marta Gargiulo.
The exhibition will concentrate on the evolution of lettering that has characterized BLADE’s work from the ‘70s to today. The spectators will feel they are entering in a NYC subway station, in which train wagons scroll before their eyes, each one interpreted differently by BLADE.
BLADE is the precursor of one of the main urban cultural trends deriving from the underground movement, and is amongst the first artists to have realized that true art must be shared and that the places where it is created must be accessible to all; this is why city walls and subway cars become the blank canvases for his art.
To become popular in the ‘80s you had to choose extreme methods, and BLADE went underground in subway deposits, illegally painting up to 5000 trains. In this manner he became known and recognizable by fans of this artistic and other genres. His strong presence in several subway lines made him a protagonist of one of the most important moments in the history of Writing: the release in 1984 of the book Subway Art, authors Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, a faithful exploration of the evolution and diffusion of urban art.
Today BLADE is present in temples of contemporary art, such as MOCA, and his paintings have been acquired in important collections such as the Palais de Tokyo, a fact which confirms and underlines the importance of the artistic message of Writing in contemporary society.
Writing has maintained its artistic relevance for over forty years, because it mirrors the dynamism and fast pace of our daily lives.
Steven Ogburn was born in New York City in 1957. He grew up in the Bronx where in the ‘70s he began to create graffiti with the name BLADE. His art strongly contributed to the birth of the Writing cultural movement, which in time became a fundamental part of the history of contemporary art.
Between 1972 and 1984 BLADE painted over 5000 trains, that carried his name and style throughout NYC, earning him the title of The King of Graf. His crew was the famous TC5, an acronym for “The Crazy 5”, that operated mainly on subway lines 2 and 5 through neighbourhoods such as the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Central Park.
In 1981 he took part to the exhibit BLADE New York / New Wave at the PS1 Gallery in NYC, which at the time was not the current contemporary art museum, but an occupied and self-managed space. The event went down in history thanks to the participation of major artists of contemporary art, such as JM Basquiat, Keith Haring, Dondi, Seen, Lee Quinones, and many others. Subsequently BLADE also did a show at the Fun Gallery in Manhattan.
In 1984, BLADE was one of the main protagonists of Subway Art, a famous art catalogue, now a cult text on the origins of Writing, whose two authors are the renowned photojournalists Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, that faithfully explored in detail the new heroes of Street Art, precursors of a revolutionary cultural movement.
From the late ‘90s, BLADE fully entered the international museum circuits from New York to Australia, California, France, Denmark, and The Netherlands.
In 2011 BLADE participated to the exhibition Art In The Streets, which was held at the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles).
BLADE | KING OF GRAF
May 8 – June 26, 2014
Via di San Salvatore in Campo 51 00186, Roma