It's the first of its kind in the United States: A graffiti exhibition at a museum in Morris County, highlighting the best New Jersey graffiti and street artists.

Will Kasso Condry is the co-curator of the Aerosol Art exhibit at the Morris Museum in Morristown. Condry said he used to be a graffiti street artist in New Jersey but has since  moved to Vermont. So when he was approached by Ron Labaco, director of exhibitions at the museum, he didn't think he was the right person for the job.

But Condry said Labaco loved the fact that he had a different perspective on street art now that he was in Vermont and teaching at Middlebury College. Condry finally agreed to take on the project and the two collaborated to come up with a list of New Jersey street artists who make up the roster.

He said the term graffiti can be limiting and the negative connotations around the word can be alarming. But he said the 12 artists being featured in the exhibit are not kids but adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s. They have given much of their talent to promote the state of New Jersey and are bringing more emphasis on graffiti writing and street art culture within the state.

Condry said growing up in New Jersey and becoming a part of the graffiti and street art scene and meeting artists from different races and genders has been intriguing. He added that the one thing about New Jersey is that it's very difficult to establish oneself within that culture because of the influences from New York and Philadelphia.

"Those two urban art meccas always overshadowed Jersey's influence. So for me, it gave me opportunity to give artists from the state who aren't as well known as some of our contemporaries and just highlight that and show the impact of these artists not only resonate within New Jersey but throughout the country," said Condry.

The purpose of the museum is to educate people on the differences between graffiti and street art and also the traditions within the culture of graffiti writing, which is far removed from vandalism.

"As an artist, be a street or graffiti, what you want to do is leave your mark and be the first to do something," said Condry. So when he found out this exhibit was going to be the first of its kind in the country, it just added more momentum and everybody brought their "A" game.

Each artist was given their own 16-by-20-foot wall to paint. Over the course of a week, they were provided with all the necessary art supplies to create their pieces. Many spent 10 to 15 hours a day painting. Condry said they were thrilled to find out they could paint whatever they wanted. They just had to use water-based spray paint because of a ventilation concern with the building.

Condry has an exhibit himself. He did a tribute to Jerry Gant, who Condry refers to as a Newark graffiti god.

"Calling him a legend is an understatement," said Condry.

Gant passed away last year so Condry felt it was his duty to pay tribute. This wall piece is the first people will see when they walk into the museum.

Most of the pieces are graffiti burners, which are the artists' names done in an elaborate letter style. There are some that are murals, which pay homage to the artist's New Jersey hometown.

Dawn Joseph Photography
Dawn Joseph Photography

The exhibition runs until March 15.

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