Friday, February 8th, 2008

Rest In Power :: Tony Silver

The great Tony Silver.

Tony Silver passed last week after a courageous fight against brain cancer.

A few years back Henry Chalfant, Tony, and I went up to Billy Jam’s radio show at KALX to talk about “Style Wars” and its impact. It tells you the kind of person that he is that after the show when the rest of us were wiped out, he was still just getting started. Although I only knew him after he was safely in the AARP target demo, I will always remember him as one of the most youthful people I’ve ever known.

Tony is also for me a model of an engaged aesthete. He always knew great art the instant he saw it, not a little of which he was making himself. And he didn’t sit there smiling with it, he immediately became its champion. He wanted to share it. That’s the way it was with graffiti.

Tony had been working as a director and actor for about a decade when he and Henry Chalfant began planting the seeds of what became “Style Wars”. Graffiti was the scourge of NYC, a public nuisance and embarrassment. Yet he staked his all on the loony idea.

They ran out of money trying to shoot it. More than a few times. But to Tony, the story of hip-hop–esp. graffiti and b-boying–was like an opera . He was convinced graffiti was some of the most important art he’d ever seen–if it could survive heartless politicians, cold municipal bureaucrats, and its own internal beefs, it might change the way people saw the world.

When the movie came out on PBS, people couldn’t believe he and Chalfant had glorified property crime and feckless urban youths. But for a new generation, “Style Wars” became a spark for one of the most vibrant and influential global visual art movements of the last two decades. Tony is a reason that street art lives all around the world, even fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars in rarified auctions. Elitist art historians may not give up the love now, but time will prove Tony was right.

To a man who lived deeply and always saw clearly, this one’s for you, Tony.

A remembrance will be scheduled in New York for Tony on February 16th.

Donations in Tony’s name may be made to the important program (Out)Laws and Justice.

More links:

+ Style Wars website & tributes
+ Jesse Thorn’s Sound of Young America tribute
+ MARE 139’s tribute to Tony
+ Prohiphop’s list of more memorials

posted by @ 11:06 am | 1 Comment

One Response to “Rest In Power :: Tony Silver”

  1. Jesse Thorn says:

    Thanks for posting this, Jeff.

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