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Exhibition focuses on graffiti as an aerosol art form
graffiti on wall

“Graffiti: A Library Guide to Aerosol Art,” a new exhibition in Emory’s Woodruff Library, draws from works by Jack Stewart and H.J. Parsons housed in the Rose Library as well as materials from other library collections. The exhibit is open until January 2023.

— H.J. Parsons

A new exhibition in Emory’s Woodruff Library invites visitors to see graffiti in a new way — as a form of artistic expression.

“Graffiti: A Library Guide to Aerosol Art,” on display in the Schatten Gallery on Level 3, focuses on increasing understanding of graffiti as an art form. The exhibition, which is open to the public at no cost, features images by noted graffiti photographers such as H.J. Parsons and Jack Stewart, as well as a 12-by-8-foot wall segment of original graffiti created by writer BASER specifically for the exhibition and a glossary of terms used by graffiti writers (as graffiti artists call themselves).

For those who are inspired by the colorful art of graffiti, there is an interactive section of the exhibition, a table with markers and paper where visitors can create their own tags and hang them on the exhibition’s Wall of Fame.

“Graffiti” draws from the Jack Stewart and H.J. Parsons collections of photographs and materials held by the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, as well as books and films about the art of graffiti from the Emory Libraries’ collections.

Atlanta-born Stewart (1926-2005) was a New York City artist who developed an interest in graffiti culture and documented subway graffiti. His papers in the Rose Library include slides of graffiti as well as drawings and acrylic or watercolor paintings by Stewart.

Parsons, an Atlanta-area native, began photographing graffiti in 2013 when he discovered a love for visiting abandoned places around the city, which were favorite destinations for graffiti writers.

In 2020, the Rose Library acquired about 1,100 of Parsons’ digital images of aerosol art in Atlanta and from around the South. Parsons’ photographs are available for research in the Rose Library (a finding aid will be online soon).

“Graffiti” was curated by Randy Gue, assistant director of collection development and curator of Political, Cultural and Social Movements at the Rose Library. His goal is to present the colorful letters and shapes as a form of art and personal expression.

“I hope this exhibition broadens people’s ideas about what our libraries collect,” Gue says. “I wanted to highlight an unexpected, current topic that merits serious scholarly attention, but an area that also would make people say, ‘The library has books and collections about that? Cool!’ And graffiti, the only art many people encounter during daily life, emerged as the most creative, vibrant and important way to accomplish that goal.”

In particular, the exhibition spotlights the Rose Library’s growing collection of modern photography, which creates a record of cultural, social and political movements.

“This exhibition isn’t intended to provide a history of graffiti,” adds exhibitions manager Kathy Dixson. “It is more about highlighting Emory Libraries’ resources that document that history and make it available for others to explore. The photography that’s featured captures works of graffiti that can be fleeting and are often quickly painted over.”

“Graffiti: A Library Guide to Aerosol Art” will be on display in the Schatten Gallery on Level 3 of Emory’s Woodruff Library until Jan. 8, 2023. Visit the exhibition webpage for more details.

graffiti on wall

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