The Word on the Street: Graffiti, Typography and Art

17 May Word on the Street

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Where rebellion meets beauty and transgression meets art

With Martha Cooper, eL Seed, Lady Pink and JAKe.

Graffiti and street art have become global phenomena in recent decades. Ranging from simple name tags to vast and elaborate creations, these fleeting and often illegally-made paintings have simultaneously been decried as vandalism, and championed as forms of human expression with true artistic and social importance.

Spraycan art and street writing as we know it shot to international fame as it exploded over the subway trains and walls of New York City in the late 1970s, at the same time as the emergence of hip hop music and culture.

Meet Lady Pink, a key painter from that early revolution, photojournalist Martha Cooper, who brought it to world attention, oand one of the world’s greatest street artists eL Seed, in conversation with illustrator JAKe in an all-star discussion.

We regret that Goldie and Nika Kramer are no longer able to take part in this event due to unforseen circumstances.

Tickets for this session include entry to Late at the Library: Word Up – a night of lettering art soundtracked by DJs Krafty Kutz and Mr.Thing, and one-off access to the British Library’s summer exhibition Writing: Making Your Mark.

Martha Cooper was working as a New York Post staff photographer in the late 1970s when she encountered the young graffiti writers who were ‘bombing’ the run-down city’s walls and its subway trains with ever more complex art and letterforms. She documented this underground scene, and the birth of hip-hop culture as no one else, helping propel it into a global phenomenon. Martha’s 1984 book Subway Art (with Henry Chalfant), has been reprinted multiple times and is affectionately called the “bible” by graffiti artists. She has continued to travel the world, capturing street life, art and subcultures, and her work has been featured in museums and galleries in numerous countries.  Hr other books include Hip Hop Files (2004), We B* Girlz (2005), Street Play (2006), New York State of Mind (2007), Tag Town (2007), Going Postal (2009) and Tokyo Tattoo 1970 (2012).

eL Seed is a French-Tunisian street artist whose works incorporate traditional Arabic calligraphy, a style he calls calligraffiti. Since the Tunisian revolution of 2011 he has  sought to promote dialogue and tolerance through his art as well as change perceptions of what Arabic means. His major works include a message of unity on a 47-meter-high minaret in Gabes, Tunisia (documented in his book, Lost Walls: Graffiti Road Trip through Tunisia) and Perception, an extraordinary 2016 mural in the garbage collectors neighbourhood of Cairo that spans 50 buildings. His work has been shown in exhibitions and in public places all over the world including on the façade of L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the favelas of Rio di Janeiro, on the DMZ in between North and South Korea and in the slums of Cape Town In 2017, he won the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. He was named a Global Thinker in 2016 by Foreign Policy for his project ‘Perception’ in Cairo. In 2013, he collaborated with Louis Vuitton on their famous ‘Foulard d’Artiste’.

Lady Pink is an artist who has been called ‘the First Lady of Graffiti’. Born in Ecuador but raised in New York, she was one of the only women active in the early 1980s New York subway graffiti world, and played a starring role the underground classic film Wild Style. That role and her other significant contributions to graffiti art have made Pink a cult figure in the hip-hop subculture. While still in high school she was already exhibiting paintings in art galleries, and at the age of 21 had her first solo show at the Moore College of Art and collaborated with Jenny Holzer on a poster series. Lady Pink’s canvases have entered major art collections at the Whitney Museum, the MET in New York City, the Brooklyn Museum and the Groningen Museum of Holland and she remains a prolific and socially motivated artist.

JAKe (chair) is an illustrator, designer, writer and animation director with a longstanding relationship with Lucasfilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones). He is the author of The Mammoth Book Of Street Art, and his other books include the critically acclaimed graphic novel, Hellraisers, How To Speak Wookiee and How to Speak Droid with R2-D2.  He has also worked with The Mighty Boosh, The Prodigy, Chali2na and Krafty Kuts, Prince Fatty, Comme Des Garçons, The Observer, Esquire, Sony Playstation, Motorola.


Name: The Word on the Street: Graffiti, Typography and Art
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546