Landmark graffiti doc at center of hip-hop celebration. 

As any student of hip-hop can tell you, the original culture, as it bubbled up from the New York City streets in the mid-to-late '70s, was about more than music. Hip-hop culture was built on four pillars: rapping, DJing, break-dancing, and graffiti art.

Early on, these elements were captured on film. The landmark 1983 film Wild Style depicted the whole culture. Krush Groov (1985) focused on the music, while Breakin' and its more famous sequel, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (both 1984), put the dance scene in the spotlight. The visual-arts component of hip-hop didn't get as commercial a showcase but did get a definitive early treatment: Style Wars, a 1983 documentary originally shown on public television.

Co-directed by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant, Style Wars nods to the other elements — three subjects give their own a cappella rendition of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message" and we meet seminal b-boy "Crazy Legs" of the Bronx-based Rock Steady Crew — but the focus is on graffiti as a means of controversial self-expression by young NYC (mostly) men that makes a quick journey from subway cars to art galleries.

The film shows young artists plying their trade and sharing photos of recent work — an often temporary art, the photos capture the work for posterity — under the disapproving eye of parents, cops, and other authority figures who see this new expression as "a whole, miserable subculture" of vandalism.

The verité-style film chronicles a whiplash moment when these burgeoning, untaught teen artists are stuck between a civic crackdown — "Take it from the champs. Graffiti is for chumps." went one ad campaign featuring a couple of pro boxers — and a Manhattan art scene chasing the new thing as not only a badge of cool but as an "investment."

Chalfant, as a photographer and videographer, is perhaps the foremost chronicler of this art form, via not only Style Wars but also books such as Subway Art and Spraycan Art. He'll be on hand for this week's Style Wars screening at the Brooks Museum of Art, where he'll do a post-screening Q&A. The event will also include break-dancing demonstrations and music from Hot 107.1 DJ Superman.

Soul on Film: Style Wars
Brooks Museum of Art
Thursday, August 23rd
6 p.m. $8

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Creed II

      Michael B. Jordan’s star power can’t save this formulaic snoozer

Blogs

News Blog

Council Delays Filling Three Vacancies Until 2019

News Blog

FBI Warns of Online Shopping Scams

News Blog

Forrest Family Sues City Over Gravesites

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: DJSteveMagic

From My Seat

Frank's Faves (Part 1)

Beyond the Arc

Jevon Carter’s Debut Brings Hope To Dismal Grizz Weekend

Tiger Blue

#3 Tennessee 102, Tigers 92

News Blog

TVA Says It's 'Committed' to Not Use Aquifer Wells

News Blog

State Liquor Laws On Trial at U.S. Supreme Court

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Death Grip

    Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Apr 19, 2018
  • The Lost City of Z

    A mesmerizing story of obsession in the Amazon jungle
    • May 1, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation