The clean and carpeted cubicles of a second-floor office space at 70 Audobon St. face the street through a window clouded by bright orange graffiti. The walls of the cubicles have been similarly enveloped by the vibrant colors, sharp angles and contorted geometry of street art, transforming the once-gray space into a colorful scene of urban soul.
The graffiti is part of the New Haven Arts Council’s gallery exhibit, titled “What You Write? A Graffiti Show: No Drips, No Runs, No Errors.” The exhibit, which is on display at the Small Space Gallery through the end of February, features creations from 13 local graffiti artists and two wall art photographers, Philip Rubin and Renee Coe. Besides showcasing local talent, the exhibit is part of a larger movement that seeks to establish graffiti as an art form in New Haven.
For many of the featured artists, the exhibit has offered the chance to approach their art form in new ways, Jose Monteiro, the Arts Council’s director of community cultural development, said. Most of the graffiti artists worked with canvas for the first time when developing the exhibit, he said.
“What’s exciting about the Arts Council is that most of the artists have never exhibited in a gallery setting,” Monteiro said.
Dooley-O, an artist featured in the exhibit, said he uses graffiti to relay personal, social and political messages.
“When I do these graffiti art shows, I try to concentrate on the feelings I have inside and write them on the canvas,” he said. “I try to focus on what people are thinking and what’s going on in the world.”
Dooley-O said he has been working with graffiti for 15 years. A recording artist and owner of The Bridge, a local skate shop and art gallery, Dooley-O has produced a documentary film in nine volumes that follows the graffiti movement in several American cities, from New York to St. Louis.
Monteiro said graffiti in the Elm City has traditionally been applied to “legal walls” — areas designated and preserved for that purpose — but recent economic development has significantly decreased the number of such walls, banishing many graffiti artists’ works to illicit locales, such as highway passages, train lines and bridges.
Still, the graffiti movement is establishing a growing presence in New Haven, said Lou Cox, owner of Channel 1, another gallery and skate shop located on State Street. Exhibits such as “What you Write?” allow these displaced artists to re-establish their work, Monteiro said.
While Cox said many see graffiti as a form of delinquency or vandalism, he said the control required of the aerosol-based art makes it a unique medium of expression.
Dooley-O said the graffiti exhibit created an energy that graffiti artists do not often experience.
“The thing about graffiti art is that you do it for appreciation, more than anything else,” Dooley-O said. “For local artists, it’s an inspiration to see work on canvas and see people appreciate what they do.”
“What You Write? A Graffiti Show: No Drips, No Runs, No Errors” is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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