Scenesters Converge in New York for Quirky Street Art Survey

Joseph Nahmad and Leonard Futura at Joseph Nahmad Contemporary Opening For Deep Space
(Neil Rasmus/

NEW YORK — Friday night, art dealer wunderkind Joseph Nahmad and graffiti-artist-cum-downtown-hipster renaissance man Nemo Librizzi joined forces to curate “Deep Space,” a multigenerational survey of “vernacular street art.” Their playful, if apocryphal, vision posed Chilean modernist Roberto Matta as the artistic grandfather of New York-based graffiti scribes Futura, Phase II, and Rammellzee. Housed in a raw space on the ground floor of the trendy High Line Building, the vernissage felt more like a scenester playground than a conventional gallery opening. The partygoers — a motely crew made up of artists Futura, Phase II, Lee QuiñonesKenny Scharf, Richard Hambleton; members of the billionaire art dynasty David and Helly Nahmad; restaurant and nightlife impresarios Matt Abramcyk and Serge Becker; art dealer and billionaire scion Andy Valmorbida; and Wu Tang Clan affiliate Papa Wu — enjoyed the splashy abstract paintings alongside generous portions of champagne and free jazz.

I stole a moment with Librizzi to ask about the inspiration for the show. “I think all great ideas, if I may call it a great idea,” he said, “came from playing around. Joseph and I really wanted to do something together. And the name Matta came up. We knew we wanted to do something around Matta because he’s an artist that not that many people outside of the art world talk about. So we wanted to kind of rediscover Matta for our generation. And then I thought about Futura, Phase II, and Rammellzee, and there were obvious correlations.” When asked if any of these street artists ever claimed Matta as an influence, he cheerfully responded, “No. That’s the funny thing. They had never seen his work. He had never seen their work. And yet, if you look around you, it looks like it was painted in the same studio.” A small black light room juxtaposing Rammellzee and Matta’s glow-in-the-dark neon paintings was the perfect venue for whimsical, anachronistic juxtapositions: “I knew Rammellzee had painted in black light,” said Librizzi, “but then a Matta specialist told me, ‘oh, well, Matta was doing that in the ’40s.’”


Click on the slideshow to see images from the opening party for "Deep Space."