New York 1975 Subway Art
Show Opening: 1st October 2015
It's been a great pleasure to host a show for painter, photographer and friend Keith Baugh. Keith stepped almost unwittingly into the graffiti scene about 10 years ago when his collection of 35mm colour transparency photographs of 1970’s New York subway graffiti, safely stashed away for three decades, were discovered by graffiti artist legend Tizer.
Contact was made with Sami Montague, editor-in-chief at Graphotism, who encouraged Keith to publish these rare images from the golden era of NY subway art in the book ‘Early New York Subway Graffiti 1973-1975’.
During the exhibition NEW YORK 1975/SUBWAY ART/ COPS&CADILLACS – Keith has showcased paintings, limited edition photographs, and a few signed posters. Keith has been signing copies of his book “Early New York Subway Graffiti 1973-1975”
“When I think back about first meeting Keith Baugh, I still feel the same twinge of the surprise I felt then. I was surprised by two things; firstly that Keith, an English man in New York, had had the amazing insight and awareness to stand on a 1970’s New York elevated subway platform to take photos of what very few others did, and secondly that the photos Keith had of these early subway train graffiti pieces; pieces which I had never ever seen before, really existed and had been preserved over three decades. To someone so deeply immersed in writing, writing history and culture this was, to put it mildly, very exciting. These were amazing photos, and there were lots of them!
Initially Keith was interested in perhaps putting together an article for Graphotism, but it was quickly obvious that what Keith had was much too significant for that, a few photos would have made an article... So, through Keith’s passion and energy his book ‘Early New York Subway Graffiti 1973-1975’ was born, a book which shone a light on this amazing period in writing history, a period of relative naivety and enthusiastic exploration which inspires me more than any other.
When I look at Keith’s vibrant and bright paintings I can feel his enthusiasm and love for the graffiti movement, also his love of Americana, classic American cars and popular culture. The paintings are nostalgic in their content, depicting the pieces he had photographed in imagined real life situations. Telling stories which perhaps never were or maybe were, freezing fantasised images of urban and glossy beauty. The paintings reconceptualise the pieces, bringing them back to life again and giving them the steely energy they once had. They take inspiration from an ephemeral art form based on youth culture, making it fine art, preserved in paint on canvas.
These creative re-imaginings add to the history, further documentation and preservation of subway train pieces which were, by their nature highly temporary, passing the viewer by in seconds and constantly at risk of the buff, saving for posterity a significant and inspiring period in writing history. There is importance in this, because none of these pieces which once ran the subway lines of New York City actually exist anymore and have not done so for decades. In some cases it is most likely that they only exist in the photos Keith took, in memories and in his paintings. There is something quite holistic about them existing again in paint, albeit on another surface and on another scale.
In this series of paintings by Keith Baugh, my eye is drawn to the trains, but there is plenty else to delight the viewer’s eye here too, the cars are shiny and big, just as American classics should be and the urban environment is deep and lush. I hope that you enjoy the paintings as much as I do, for the same reasons and for reasons of your own. I strongly believe that the fact that Keith saw something special about the pieces to begin with, and thought them worthy of photographing for preservation, is amazing.”
– Sami Montague, August 2015
Editor-in-chief Graphotism magazine