“It’s a bit of a story, but he found us,” said filmmaker Charlie Ahearn about the late graffiti artist Rammellzee at the opening of “Rammellzee: The Letter Racers,” the debut show for Suzanne Geiss Company, a new gallery in Soho. “He was seeking out people he wanted to contact like Fab Five Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fred was working with me on the film.”
Mr. Ahearn, who was speaking of the iconic ’80s hip-hop film he directed, Wild Style, was standing with Gallerist in a black-lit room. Above us, there were 26 “letter racers”—skateboards souped up and hung from the ceiling like a flock of aerodynamic, robotic birds flying madly out of a cave.
“These are all the letters of the alphabet,” said Mr. Ahearn pointing up at the sculptural objects. “He believed words to be warlike. They are warlike, aren’t they? And he saw the Battle Station, his studio, as a place where his art works were being prepped for attack. You can see how they were designed to be aerodynamic. And Wild Style was this aerodynamically developed graffiti art form.” Mr. Ahearn’s film by the same name featured the graffiti artist Rammellzee rapping at the climactic “Amphitheater scene.”
Rammellzee was known for his manifestos like “Gothic Futurism,” which investigated the ability of graffiti to free the transcendental powers of the alphabet, which he believed had been corrupted by Western culture. He was also known for his studio, which he called the Battle Station.
“The Battle Station was like five blocks away from here,” Mr. Ahearn said. The crowd was mixed, comprised, in part, of people who seemed to have been around in the ’80s and had worked or were friends with Rammellzee, and, in another part, of young artists who had only heard of Rammellzee. But it seemed like old friends were coming together, a sentiment nicely captured when a blue-haired woman greeted another woman saying, “That’s why I come to these parties. To see the old friends.”
Out in the hall, Ms. Geiss was standing in a structured white dress with a chunky necklace, looking somewhat uptown, as she greeted guests with kisses, many tall men in gold-framed sunglasses, hats, necklaces and all manner of bling and young scrappy models in leather jackets. People were arriving with such momentum we wondered if there was a door in the back letting them all out in equal numbers. The small two-room gallery was already jam-packed and a bouncer had just been installed to keep people out. “I cannot keep track of five hundred people coming in and out,” we heard him say to the restive crowd outside.
Fab Five Freddy, who entered in a sunglasses, a hat and a dark suit, was continually stopped by fans putting out their hands and calling out his name as he tried to make it down the hall.
Later, we saw Fab Five Freddy standing with a tall man and breaking a plastic package to reveal an iPhone cover, which bore the graffiti artist’s likeness in black and white. “Look at these,” he told Gallerist, as we approached, showing us the cell phone cover. “He made these,” he said pointing to the man. “He’s an artist.”
“Maripol,” Fab Five Freddy said as a smiling blonde woman, the producer of Downtown81 and Madonna’s stylist, approached us. They kissed and grabbed each others’ hands. “I had a dream about you last night,” she said. “We were in West Palm Beach.”
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