RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder

May 4 – August 26, 2018
Wednesday – Sunday
12pm – 7pm
20180504 12:00:00 20180826 18:00:00 America/New_York RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder Red Bull Studios New York 220 w 18th Street 10011 New York, NY USA

RAM plus M for Magnitude, Sigma (Σ) the first summation operator, first Llongitude, second Llatitude, Zz-bar, Σ, Σ – summation

It is impossible to speak of the equation known as The RAMM:ELL:ZEE without acknowledging the cypher that he was; an arsenal of contradictions conveyed through an unremitting verbal and creative flow. At once manic genius, prolific polymath, irascible overlord, charming hustler, quantum hobbyist, and incoherent madman; at the core, Rammellzee was a supreme myth-maker, one who makes sense of the senseless.

As a young graffiti writer and MC growing up in the urban miasma that was New York City in the 1970s, Rammellzee existed from the start as an outlier. Born of mixed African-American and Italian heritage, and raised in the projects of Far Rockaway, aka Rocky Far-Away—the isolated seaside  community stationed at the southern end of the A train—he bore his singular street identity as a mantle of the alien and otherworldly.

The official mythos begins with legal decree in 1979, abandoning his given name, and adopting the militaristic equation The RAMM:ELL:ZEE as his lawful moniker. It was also this year that Rammellzee penned the first of a series of complex, discursive, visionary manifestos detailing his ever-developing cosmology of Gothic Futurism and the concept of Ikonoklast Panzerism. Rammellzee perceived language as a structurally-flawed agent of an antagonistic societal operating system. He formulated an evolution of wildstyle lettering that would liberate, weaponize, and deploy the letter like an immune system response, circulating an attack on what he called contemporary “diseased culture” and the institutions of control.

Steadfast in his mission, Rammellzee advanced his mythos of Gothic Futurism through various arenas of power. After having earned a reputation as a seminal graffiti writer and MC by the early 1980s, he caught the attention of the contemporary art world, where he quickly ascended the ranks finding further opportunity and bedrock for the development of his ideologies. Where kinetic subway cars provided the viral methodology needed to distribute his burgeoning theories, the artworld of the 1980s—influential, wealthy, and eager to harness the vitality of authentic, New York graffiti writers—proved to be the vessel best suited to propel the war machine.

Over the next decade, he would produce, with unassailable acumen, a diverse and materially-rich body of work, much of which was quickly acquired and tucked away in collections throughout Europe. As the decade came to a close, the frequency of exhibitions and museum shows thinned. Conveniently, the mythos, poised for the next phase, had already begun work on what would become his magnum opus and the final leg of his corporeal mission.

By the early 1990s, the increasing density and complexity of Rammellzee’s epistemology necessitated a materialization of ideas and proliferation of personalities, made real through elaborate epoxy-driven assemblages and costumes.  His Tribeca loft, a sprawling, uncontainable construction known as the Battlestation, became the hangar for his fleet of Letter Racers, Monster Models, and Garbage Gods, all forged from the detritus of the local consuming class. In a schizophrenic gesture, Rammellzee himself fragmented into oppositional battalions of alien bookies and demi-god gangsters, tricked out with ornate robes, masks, and weaponry exquisitely crafted and engineered from garbage. Performing as these various identities, Rammellzee presented in its most complex and fully realized form the binary battle of opposition that pervaded his mythology.

RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder presents, for the first time, a diverse selection of artworks, music, writings, rare archival documentation, and ephemera, gathered from disparate sources around the world, to outline a chronology of this remarkably complicated artist. Told by the people closest to him, the collection of oral histories, recorded on site and presented throughout the exhibition, act as a shared history, framing Rammellzee’s influence and memorializing the man who inspired, compelled, and galvanized nearly every person he encountered. While enigmatic and esoteric, Rammellzee’s work is also premonitory, warning that language has been co-opted as a tool of social and political manipulation. It is safe to say that we are far closer to the beginning, than the end of measuring the full impact left by The RAMM:ELL:ZEE.


If this knowledge scares you, the equation is working.

May 4 – August 26, 2018
Wednesday – Sunday
12pm – 7pm

220 w 18th Street 10011
New York, NY USA

Film thumbnail: Photo courtesy Mari Horiuchi

RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder is organized by Max Wolf and Carlo McCormick, with Candice Strongwater, Jeff Mao, and Christian Omodeo.

Exhibition Design and Architecture: studioSTIGSGAARD
Lighting: Sense Lighting Design
Art Director: Erin Knutson
Production Manager: Amanda Contrada
Installation Managers: Kyle Clairmont Jacques with Kyla Chevrier and Greg Kalliche
Exhibition Crew: Nathaniel de Large with Ilie Paun Capriel, Claude Barnes, Alex Holmes, Craig Monteith, John Bianchi and Hayley Martell
Gallery Manager: Jenny Slattery
Registrar: Beatriz Palacios
Content and Communications: Mac Concordia
Brand Manager: Hannah Chun

Acknowledgements and special thanks:
Adrian Boot, Aïshti Foundation, Al Diaz, Alex Behnke, Alain-Dominique Gallizia, Alessandra Bergero, Allard Wildenberg, Angela Boatwright, Archives of Edit DeAk, Arno Vriends, Arthur de Rooij, Barbara Braathen, Bethany Jacobson, Bill Connors, Bill Laswell, Brian Belott, Brian (B.Dub) Williams, Carl Everett, Carla Stellweg, Celia Bullwinkel, Charlie Ahearn, Chris Campion, Crazy Legs, Dave Tompkins, David Fouks, Daze, Delta 2, Dirk Müller, Dutch Graffitti Library, Elara Pictures, Elene Damenia, Eszter Balint, Evan Sutton, Fales Library & Special Collections, Futura, Galerie Thomas, Gen Atem, Grand Mixer DXT, Groninger Museum, Hasan Moore, Henk Pijnenburg, Henry Chalfant, Hesa, Hubert Kretzschmar, Hyosun Kim, Ian Pendleton, Immanuel Yang, Ink 76, Ivy Brown, James Jebbia, Jane Rankin-Reid, Janet Goldman, Janette Beckman, Jim Jarmusch, Joe Fama, Joe Hazan, Joe La Placa, Jon Campolo, Johnny Grizot, Jonathan Drew, Joseph Nechvatal, K-Rob, Keetja Allard, Keith Hopewell, Keo, Khalid Livingston, King Klast, Kool Koor, Kyle Piccirello, Larry Gagosian, Lee Quiñones, Lidia Carrieri, Liz Munsell, Lucy Castile and the Estate of Rammellzee, Luke House, Mac Concordia, Marcia Mercadante, Mari Horiuchi, Marissa Sackler, Martha Cooper, Mary Lord, Michael Benabou, Michael Holman, Michaela Langer, Mimmo Laera, Nick Taylor, Niels Shoe Meulman, Nina Garfinkel, Oscar Boyson, Patrick Fox, Peter Gramberg, Ralph De Haan, Red Bull Radio team, Ricky Powell, Rochelle Lewis, Salomon Emquies, Serge Ziegler, Seth Tillett, Shockdell, Simona Scarcella, Sonic Bad, Sotheby’s: Eric Shiner and Harrison Tenzer, Stephen Snyder, Stephen Torton, Steve Moore, Stuart Argabright, Stuart Losee, Suzanne Geiss, Sylvère Lotringer, Sylvia Menzel, Tamalyn Miller, Tim Kelly, Tiziano Tancredi, Todd L. Burns, Toxic, Vincent Vlasblom, Walter Bednarz, Waring Abbott, Whitney Museum of American Art Archives, Yaki Kornblit and Zephyr.

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