This cohort was making work as young adults that projected a hip-hop–Afrofuturist imaginary onto the extremely Eurocentric gallery system’s white-cube walls.
Nowadays if we need to make the artists of the first hip-hop generation relatable to the public we can simply introduce them as prophetic avatars of hip-hop and Afrofuturism — two once outlier subcultures that now possess globalized street cred and multibillion-dollar market value. Such attributes were nonexistent when the creative tyros represented here were all in their roaring 20s in 1980s Gotham City.
What Basquiat and Ramm share is a mastery of improvisation — Basquiat graphically, Ramm verbally. Where they diverge is in Basquiat’s avowedly ravenous hunger for art-world fame and for his art to be unlinked to writing and the word “graffiti.” Fab 5 Freddy, Lady Pink, and Lee have all demanded similar respect for their post-graffiti work, but Ramm to his dying day never abandoned his belief that the wildstyle writing and letter-armoring of his hundreds of underground comrades was a higher calling than getting into the gallery system.
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