SEEN… FOR THE FIRST TIME IN
OUTSIDE INSTITUTE’S EAGERLY AWAITED INAUGURAL SHOW
The Outside Institute, a new gallery in
Paddington, West London has been set up to showcase artists embracing the urban
environment as a creative medium, and promote the urban art movement, hailed as
most compelling and daring to emerge in recent years.
The much anticipated inaugural show, exhibited the work of one of the most
inspirational and respected graffiti artists of all time, Seen. Known as the
‘godfather of graffiti’ Seen was showing in the UK for the first
time, exclusively at the Outside Institute, from the 1st April to 8th May 2005.
Bronx born Seen, part of the United Artists group, made his name as one of the
most prolific graffiti artists of the New York subway cars in the late 70’s and
early 80’s. He has mentored countless young protégé over many years, and
continues to be hailed as the ‘King’ of the art form.
Seen also appeared in the seminal graffiti and hip hop film Style Wars, which
celebrates it’s 21st Anniversary this year and was screened alongside the
exhibition, although in a rather disappointing way, simply projected onto the
wall in the corner. What I didn't know until recently that Seen was also
painting as Richie and Psyko and if you had ever leafed through the pages of
seminal Hip Hop publication Subway Art you would have seen many of Seen's works
as they were liberally spread throughout Chalfont's book. The photographed
pieces included the world famous Hand Of Doom and if you check out Seen's
personal website you can peep some of these pix and the crazy stories behind
them, including an occasion when the anti-graf police commissioned him to do a
full car for their colleagues!!! Go figure. Back in these days, if undisturbed
Seen as said that he was capable of painting three full cars or more in one
session over one night. This is how he was able to be so prolific.
The Outside Institute has been founded by one of London’s most sought after
urban artists D*face. The 2,000 square foot space has been designed to allow
urban artists to exhibit their works in an easy-going, stylish environment.
An exclusive private view of the Seen exhibition took take place at the Outside
Institute on the 31st March, and was comprised of canvasses under the sub
heading 'The End Of An Era' which symbolised his turning a new chapter in his
career. Many of the larger canvasses were mocked up to appear as if painted on a
New York subway train, and not that I begrudge Seen his earnings some of the
canvasses were really expensive, the really small ones of which there were 60
were £110 and as the size increased so did the price, ranging from just under £500 for the
Mass Transit 1978-89 series right up to £17,000 for the Andy Warhol type full wall set of panels
Post No Bills, still if I was a banker I would have shelled out on the lot for
medium sized canvasses were a variety of 'S's as Seen worked through a stylistic
theme. Also during the exhibition was a screening of
Style Wars with original artwork from the film.
The private view was
attended by Seen and other big names from the art world. Seen himself was mobbed
by hundreds of adoring fans who all had their battered copies of Subway Art with
them to be signed. Some were simply stroking him as if in awe in his presence. I
would have taken my copy to be signed too had it not been stolen off me some
time ago. Poetic justice I guess as it was racked in the first place.
When first contacted about having an exhibition in London Seen thought it was an
opportunity to bring the essence of true old school NYC subway graffiti to the
UK. His goal was to capture the styles, colour schemes, textures and overall
rawness in all of graffiti's developmental stages and make the viewer feel as if
they were standing right there in the train yards. Seen states that nearly two
decades have passed since a NYC train actively ran with graffiti on its surface.
The city officials have been able to maintain control of the transit system
putting an end to a remarkable era. Seen's intention was to bring it back
through this work.