The New York graffiti movement is one that is well documented, as it is a story of pioneering street artists coming out of the dingy woodwork in the late 70s and early 80s. Emerging at a time unsurprisingly when the Hip-Hop movement grew into a exhilarating and prominent movement demanding attention, as its origins sprung out from within the roughest housing projects in some of America’s well known cities. The newest offering from Pure Evil gallery goes some way to showing off some of the prime talent from this era contributing some of the best work from the mecca of it all, New York City.

New York Kings showcases some of the very best talent from the golden-era of graffiti when bombing subway trains was the norm, as attending art school for these guys was simply not an option. It shows a time when the spray can was the brush and the weapon of these insanely talented group of artists, who made the project walls their canvas, making sure their work was seen and their message heard.

The fact this exhibition includes the word King in its title is no accident, as all of the artists showcased have earned their stripes from years of spraying in the most dangerous and daring places most artists would never go. They were breaking down the walls of what had gone before, smashing down barriers of the middle class Manhattan scene, where being showcased in a gallery was the only way to be get any recognition . Like guerrillas of art throughout the five boroughs, they brightened up the underground and transit systems making these a mecca for budding artists and causing the great connoisseur, Henry Chalfant to take note and document it in his book Subway Art.

Though these days the authorities such as the MTA and police might have cottoned on, the scene lives but has changed in the way it exhibits itself and now galleries such as Pure Evil dedicate themselves to showcasing the contemporary talent. The game might have changed but the message is the same, f**k the system and anyone who agrees with it.

This exhibit, curated by Christophe Demoulin has some of the most innovative names of the New York scene such as Cope, Poem, Bom5, Deck, and Indie 184 among others. For me the idea of painting over the subway maps is one of intense genius and originality, but is something that has been around since the 70s even being done by the late Keith Haring to a certain degree. With so many names being shown here it has something for fans of differing styles as each member brings something different.  Whether your style is partial to the bubble writing of Cope or 3d lettering from the king, Blade it really does have a wide range of everything disappointing nobody.

Its a exhibition not to be missed by anyone who has even the smallest interest in graffiti, as it takes you on a unique journey, offering a unique panorama of contemporary urban art from the masters themselves.

The exhibition runs till the 18th November and is free to attend so there is no real excuse not to visit.

Pure Evil
108 Leonard Street,
London
EC2A 4XS

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