June 24, 2024

The Forthcoming ‘Racing for Thunder’ Chronicles Rammellzee’s Vibrant and Multi-Hyphenate Artistic Career — Colossal


#New York City
#street art

June 11, 2024

Kate Mothes

the artist Rammellzee in a futuristic costume, photographed on a swirling blue backdrop

All images © Rammellzee, courtesy of Rizzoli, shared with permission

In the 1970s and 1980s, a ride on the New York City subway looked a lot different than it does today, famously coated in graffiti inside and out. One figure who has gained posthumous attention during the past few years is the creative polymath Rammellzee (1960-2010), whose paintings, sculptures, and performances deployed and deconstructed language at a time when novel digital technologies were just beginning to emerge.

Growing up in Queens, the artist frequented the A Train and often tagged the cars and stations along the route. He was also a major figure in the hip hop community, reaching new audiences in the iconic cult documentary Wild Style, completed in 1982. Created by Charlie Ahearn, the film highlighted hip hop on the big screen for the first time and propelled Rammellzee into the spotlight alongside seminal performers like Fab Five Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Lady Pink, and more.

Rammellzze’s career was catalyzed by his seemingly limitless forays into visual art, design, performance, and philosophy, rising to prominence alongside visual artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat (previously), with whom he became a friend and collaborator, and Keith Haring (previously). His work is based on a self-devised theory he coined “Gothic Futurism,” in which the letters of the alphabet symbolically battle against the standards imposed on them. He created elaborate handmade masks and costumes, representing various characters in what he termed the “mathematical equation” of his persona.

A forthcoming monograph, Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder, presents the first major survey of the idiosyncratic and multitalented figure, combining a trove of visual delights and insights into other creative experiments. The new, large-format volume is edited by curator and art dealer Maxwell Wolf—whose 2018 Rammellzee retrospective spurred the book—alongside music journalist and historian Jeff Mao. Published by Rizzoli and scheduled for release this September, Racing for Thunder chronicles the incredible scope of the artist’s output, from resin frescoes and sculpture to performance accoutrements and graffiti.

Gathered in print for the first time, the wide range of archival materials and ephemera is complemented by context from musicians, actors, photographers, gallerists, family, and more, who share vital insights into his life and work. Preorder your copy on Bookshop.


a horizontal assemblage artwork made from found materials like sunglasses, spools, and other found parts

a futuristic costume by Rammellzee, loosely inspired by Japanese samurai

an abstract, graffiti-inspired horizontal painting

a photograph of the artist Rammellzee holding a cutout graffiti artwork

an abstract painting with dots and splashes of aerosol paint

#New York City
#street art


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