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Lee Quinones Pop Up Show

We really love drawings, sketches and blackbooks from New York graffiti writers of the 1970s and 1980s. That's why we love the idea of New York art dealer Nicole Klagsbrun, who has announced Lee Quinones’ pop-up solo exhibition of early, never seen before drawings presented alongside a range of new works, which collectively span 1975 to the present and establish the dynamic lineage of his art over the years. The exhibition, which runs until June 7th, centers on the dichotomy of the old and new as well as turbulence and calm and also highlights the literal marks of “street art.” These elements provide the link to Quinones’ current studio practice as well as to the debut of a site-specific wall piece at the gallery that is inspired by the rich history established by his works on paper.

Building on a prolific career that extends from his time as a legendary street artist in the 1970s and 1980s into a rich oeuvre established over the past two decades, this exhibition sheds light on Quinones’ first love: drawing. In the process, this presentation underscores the significance the artist has placed on mark-making, the socio-political specificity of site or location, and the ideas of history, memory and nostalgia which are an ongoing and integral part of his art.

Quinones’ early drawings encapsulate the history of 1970s New York City, an era marked by a sense of urgency particularly around economic and social issues, as well as the national concerns of the Cold War and volatile U.S. economy. The artist describes this period as “tumultuous and dark, filled with a sense of radical change.” And these sentiments are embodied in his original, colorful and multi-textured work studies for whole subway cars including, Born Again (1975), as well as Jesus Christ: Superstar (1977) which convey the sense of urgency, reflection and call to action so pertinent to the time.

In his more recent works, Quinones establishes a sense of calm and peace. They display his meditation on his Nuyorican and family history and Latin American identity, and are grounded in self-reflection and introspection. Golpe de Suerte (2013) is a collage of his mother’s recipe writings that are combined with various papers, plane tickets and vouchers found in her collection of stuff that she compiled over the years. A centerpiece of the exhibition, it is a humble, quiet work that reveals a soft serendipity unfolding into a cathartic existence reflective of Quinones’ past.

Quinones’ recent Tags (2014) harken back to his days on the street of NYC while also reflecting his current studio practice. While his early street art was methodical, clear and had to be well-planned, here Quinones is re-visiting his mark with vivid colors in spray paint, acrylics and markers; experimenting with and reflecting on his process, work and life with a sense of humor, as if to assert that in the end it essential to live joyously.


Lee Quinones painted his first subway piece in 1974. By late 1975, he was creating murals that ran across the entire surface of 40-foot-long subway cars. By 1976, he was a shadowy legend. Over the next decade, the Puerto Rico-born graffiti writer, Lower East Side-raised master of street art, painted an estimated 155 subway cars throughout New York’s MTA system—and his distinctive mix of calligraphy, poetry, and politics became known around the world. In late 1975, Quinones was asked to join the Fabulous Five, an elite quintet of seemingly mythic graffiti writers. The Fabulous Five’s greatest feat — the only running 10-car train painted from top to bottom, end to end — made its legendary journey in November 1976. Here’s how Quinones depicted them, back in the day.

  • lee quinones
  • pop up show
  • nicole klagsbrun
  • new york
  • drawings
  • graffiti
  • writing
  • urban art
  • calligraphy
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