Joe Lewis, “The Message”, courtesy of the artist.
Since its formative years on the streets of the Bronx in the early 1970s, Hip Hop has risen to global prominence, becoming one of the most influential cultural movements of the last forty years. Many who were there during that pivotal decade might have never believed that something as homespun as Hip Hop would take the world by storm. Constructed from the D.I.Y. ethos that poverty demands, Hip Hop’s authenticity, integrity, and originality came from the heart of its teenage constituents. This was not the youth culture you saw in the movies or on TV; these were black and Latino kids who knew how to survive on the city’s mean streets. The revolutionary spirit that belies Hip Hop has made it force of nature that appeals to people from all walks of life. From Soweto to New Orleans and everywhere in between, you are likely to come across Hip Hop in one of its many forms, forever re-inventing itself as is the nature of the medium.
Artists Jane Dickson and Joe Lewis were in the South Bronx as the movement took hold, sharing a love of art, music, culture, and style with the people of the neighborhood. Dickson and Lewis began collaborating in 1979 when they first crossed paths at Fashion Moda, located at 148 Street and Third Avenue in the heart of the South Bronx. Like Hip Hop itself, Fashion Moda employed a revolutionary new approach to the creation and experience of art. By creating a space where uptown and downtown could merge and explore, on their own terms, Fashion Moda brought together all different types of people that might not otherwise ever be in the same room.
In those days, the South Bronx looked like a war zone; the effects of the government policy of “benign neglect” had cast the city into a kind of poverty that most New Yorkers had never known. Yet, from the ashes, a phoenix in the form of Hip Hop culture had emerged. Celebrating it’s ascent into a global movement, Dickson and Lewis joined together to create a new exhibition of work, Pump Up the Volume!, currently on view in the Robert Else Gallery at California State University Sacramento, now through February 26, 2012.
Pump Up the Volume! features approximately 60 works produced between 1979–2015 including portraits of important genre artists as well as an audio component featuring 278 songs (18 hours of music) tracing the history of hip-hop music from the Bronx. The exhibition beautifully combines the distinctive visions of each artist to show the diversity and inclusive spirit inherent to Hip Hop culture and art.
Art Professor Elaine O’Brien, who arranged to bring the exhibition to Sacramento State from the BronxArtSpace, New York, observed, “’Pump Up The Volume!; shows bright embers of a youth culture that caught fire fast and burns hot everywhere today. We brought this show here for the students, to impress and inspire them with the force of art made by young people out of school and against the odds.”
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.