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Art Exhibit Brings Graffiti 'Resurgence' to Bed-Stuy

By Camille Bautista | November 6, 2014 8:51am
 Frank Morrison, an "urbanist" painter, will showcase an exhibit titled "Graffiti" at House of Art Gallery starting Nov. 15.
Frank Morrison, an "urbanist" painter, will showcase an exhibit titled "Graffiti" at House of Art Gallery starting Nov. 15.
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House of Art Gallery/Frank Morrison

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — It’s been more than four decades since aerosol-sprayed tags and bubble letters first appeared on New York City subway cars.

Now, a Bedford-Stuyvesant gallery is showcasing graffiti in a November exhibition to pay tribute to the art form.

“Graffiti,” which features a collection of work by “urbanist” painter Frank Morrison, will open to the public on Nov. 15 at the House of Art Gallery.

“It’s only fitting that we bring this exhibition to the neighborhood,” said gallery director Richard Beavers.

“We represent underserved artists whose work is influenced by everyday life in the inner city, and graffiti is a part of that.”

The installation, which also marks the gallery's seventh anniversary in the neighborhood, aims to address the “resurgence” of interest and ignite the debate of graffiti as art versus graffiti as vandalism.

“People are really beginning to understand that it’s a legitimate art form,” Beavers said.

“A lot of people who started out as graffiti artists — when it was looked at as vandalism — had to use streets, cars and sidewalks because there were no institutions or galleries available to them.”

Still, it continues to elicit negative responses, Morrison said, which is an issue he hopes to bring to the table.

Morrison, a New Jersey native, joined a crew of graffiti artists and writers in his youth, then went on to become a “B-boy,” breakdancing and touring through Europe.

During his travels overseas, he discovered the “universal” quality of graffiti, with young adults around the world drawn to what he called the “illegal art form.”

“You are willing to go to jail for it — to be that passionate, you have to recognize that as art,” Morrison said.

“I hope people can look at it from a different perspective. Now that we are seeing graffiti in galleries, we’re legitimizing it. Yes, it is vandalism, but now that it’s in this platform, people can question it and think more about it.”

The paintings, which are oil on canvas, feature diverse subjects to represent the art form’s worldwide appeal. The exhibit at 408 Marcus Garvey Blvdwill also feature a kids’ workshop on Nov. 16. 

“Graffiti is really about an art form for a forgotten youth,” Morrison added.

Whether it addresses gentrification, poor school systems or domestic issues, there is a reason for the art’s place in the community, he said. It's a form of expression.

“I’ve been there, tagging on walls, running from the cops. I want to show now that I can take it from the back walls to the full front where everybody can appreciate it as fine art.”