Graffiti, film, photo archives expand Hip Hop Collection

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Syl Kacapyr

Provided/Cornell Hip Hop Collection
Artwork by graffiti writer Richie 'SEEN' Mirando, from an archive of his photos and early sketches now housed in the Cornell Library's Hip Hop Collection.

Provided/Cornell Hip Hop Collection
Kid Capri, Queen Latifah and Tupac Shakur, from an archive of Cree photographer Ernie Paniccioli's complete work. The image is part of the Hip Hop Collection's "Now Scream' exhibition opening April 4 in Kroch Library.

Cornell University Library's Hip Hop Collection has grown with the recent acquisition of several important collections of graffiti art, photography, film, video and audio, publications and paper ephemera.

The Hip-Hop Collection, established in 2007 in the library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, features more than 50,000 items documenting the birth of hip-hop in New York City and its global expansion.

The library's first major exhibition to showcase the collection, "Now Scream!", opens April 4 in Kroch Library and runs through Feb. 4, 2014, The exhibition kicks off "Unbound from the Underground," a community hip-hop celebration April 4-7, with graffiti artists, visiting scholar Afrika Bambaataa and other performers.

The Charlie Ahearn Hip Hop Archive, acquired in December, includes research footage, film production records, photographs, posters, video, audio, oral histories, posters and vinyl related to Ahearn's "Wild Style" (1983), the first feature film to showcase hip-hop culture (it screens April 5 in Ithaca with an artists' panel).

The Richie "SEEN" Mirando Archive preserves early work by the graffiti artist, with nearly all that remains of the original sketches used for his subway train artwork. It includes more than 149 drawings and 370 photographs (yard and station images and action shots of paintings in progress); Mirando's collection of original drawings by other United Artists crew members and collaborators; "black books" with early SEEN color drawings; gallery flyers and a rare original Style Wars New York poster.

Photographer Joe Conzo, Jr. and Jorge "Popmaster Fabel" Pabon, both members of the Hip Hop Collection's Advisory Board, have also deposited their archives.

Conzo captured images of the South Bronx between 1978-83, when hip-hop was still a localized, grassroots culture. Some of his prints arrived with the bulk of the collection in 2007; this year, all of his South Bronx negatives are being digitized and moved to Cornell.

Fabel, a hip-hop dance pioneer with the Rock Steady Crew, established his archive with a collection of flyers, promotional materials and other ephemera documenting his career from the early 1980s to the present.

Along with Conzo, Ernie Paniccioli is considered one of the genre's most important photographers. Beginning with images of graffiti art in the 1970s, his archive of more than 50,000 physical and digital images represents his entire corpus of work as an artist and as principal staff photographer for Word Up magazine.

Conzo and Paniccioli have granted permission to Cornell to share their complete bodies of work online, with access to study their images available to anyone.

The Hip Hop Collection recently welcomed the archive of the IGTimes (originally the International Graffiti Times) -- an influential underground magazine documenting the aerosol art movement, New York street culture and contemporary social issues from 1983-94. The archive contains 4,500 photographs sent to the magazine showing graffiti art from all over the world, 1,000 slide transparencies, poetry, interviews, cartoons, social commentary, profiles and editorials by a cast of contributors that included hip-hop artists Schooly D, Public Enemy and KRS-One.

"We are proud to have partnered with these important artists, so we can help ensure their work is preserved as part of the story of hip-hop culture," said Katherine Reagan, curator of rare books and manuscripts. "They also form part of the Library's efforts to document musical cultures broadly."

Other recent library acquisitions include a collection of thousands of 1990s rave flyers from San Francisco and the United Kingdom, and several new collections containing more than 3,500 items on the history of British and American punk rock in the 1970s and 1980s.

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