Books in the MCL:”Dondi White (1961-1998): Dondism”. Exhibition Retrospective Catalogue 7 avril- 10 mai 2018, curateur Michael White

Michael White (curator): “Dondi White (1961-1998): Dondism”. Exhibition Retrospective Catalogue 7 avril- 10 mai 2018. 2018

“Dondi: Dondism” is a catalogue accompanying a 2018 retrospective exhibition held at the Ghost Galerie in Marseille, commemorating two decades since the passing of Dondi, an iconic figure in the New York City graffiti movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Curated by his brother Michael White, the exhibition displayed over 40 artworks from private European collections. These ranged from paintings on canvas, sketches, and collages on paper, to photographs taken by renowned photographers such as Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, and Sophie Bramly. The catalogue also features a poignant essay by Mr. White in memory of Donald J. White, popularly known as Dondi.

Born in Manhattan in 1961 and relocated to the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn at six months old, Dondi’s life was shaped by his urban surroundings. Though his formative years were marked by challenges, including affiliations with street gangs for self-preservation, Dondi embarked on his graffiti journey in the 1970s. Initially using various aliases like BUS 129 and MR WHITE, he eventually adopted the moniker DONDI more consistently towards the decade’s end. His affiliations with graffiti crews evolved over time, transitioning from TOP to his own crew, CIA (Crazy Inside Artists).

The catalogue underscores Dondi’s seminal contribution to the then-nascent graffiti-writing scene, emphasizing his unique style writing, characterized by legible, dynamic, and intricately styled letters. His “Children of the Grave” series, composed of three whole cars painted on the New York City Subway from 1978-1980, stands as a testament to his prowess.

Dondi’s impact wasn’t restricted to underground art; he bridged the divide between street culture and the conventional art scene. Notably, he participated in the 1981 “Beyond Words” exhibition, organized by Futura and Fab Five Freddy, alongside luminaries like Keith Haring. Later in the 1980s, he showcased his canvas works at Patti Astor’s Fun Gallery, rubbing shoulders with artists like Basquiat and Haring.

Tragically passing away in 1998, Dondi’s uncompromising dedication and innovation in the graffiti movement left an indelible mark. Through exhibitions like “Dondi: Dondism” and their accompanying catalogues, his enduring legacy and the profound influence he exerted on both the graffiti community and the larger art sphere continue to be celebrated.

Text  Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo  Fotos Sebastian Kläbsch