Wildstyle: a story of 1980s New York graffiti through the lens of hip-hop culture

To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the release of the film Wild Style, Amanda McDonald Crowley spoke with its director, Charlie Ahearn, a film and video maker and artist based in New York City. In the 1970s he became part of the artists’ group Colab - short for Collaborative Projects – a group of artists determined to work in contexts beyond the traditional art world and galleries. It was during Colab’s art show in the summer of 1980, titled The Times Square Show, that Ahearn and graffiti artist Fred Braithwaite (later known as Fab 5 Freddy), agreed that they would make a film about hip hop and graffiti as an artform. That same summer Ahearn began working with Braithwaite and Lee Quinones on what has become the classic feature-length hip-hop film Wild Style, taking its name from the graffiti painting style. What is important to understand is that Wild Style is not a movie about graffiti, nor is it a documentary. It is a movie that explores the hip hop movement of early 1980s New York City.

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