August 23, 2023

Hip-Hop: Seen/Unseen - My Archival Images Included in Boston Outdoor Exhibit

Having my images from the 1980s included in the Hip-Hop: Seen/Unseen exhibit is a highlight of my creative life.  I recently donated prints, negatives and writings to The Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archives at UMass Boston.  My hope was that the community and scholars could benefit from access to my work.  This Boston exhibit is near South Station, in Dewey Square Plaza on the Rose Kennedy GreenwayThe following images and curatorial statement are from the opening reception.  The exhibit runs through October.

The Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive at Mass Boston, the personal collection of Chico Silvera, and select photography by John Nordell, John Brewer, Gabriel Ortiz, and more.

Curated by: Liza Quiñonez @streettheorygallery, Edo G @edogpics, Chico Silvera @chicosilvera77, and Pacey Foster @libraryofvinyl

Visitors examine my photographs on the left panel.

In honor of Hip-Hop's 50-year golden anniversary, Street Theory and The Greenway Conservancy are proud to present Hip Hop: Seen/Unseen, showcasing a carefully curated collection of early concert flyers and rare photographic archives from 1979 to the present. This mini-exhibition, nestled within the Dewey Square Plaza on The Greenway, is a tribute to the raw, captivating allure of Hip-Hop and its deeply embedded roots in Boston's social and cultural tapestry.

T. Nyne looks on as curator Chico Silvera points to T. Nyne's younger self in one of my images from The B-Town Rap Battle held in 1986 at The Institute of Contemporary Art.

Hip-Hop: Seen/Unseen explores the rich cultural heritage, historical journey, and pervasive influence of Hip- Hop in Boston, thereby exposing the vibrant yet often hidden heartbeat of the City.

So thrilled to be part of this historic event.  Note the Boston Bruins logo manhole cover.

Illuminated by Problak's 2022 mural Breathe Life Together as the backdrop, the exhibition strives to create an authentic portrayal of Hip-Hop's far-reaching influence on Boston's culture. It aims to provoke conversations about music's role in everyday life, the power of grassroots art, and now such movements can redefine a city's identity.

A panel discussion was held at the base of Problack's mural: Breathe Life Together

The show flyers trace the roots of the movement by capturing the genesis of the New York and Boston Hip Hop scenes, while the photographs transcend mere portrayal of iconic figures. Instead, they spot daily life, jam sessions, and gatherings through the lens of the five core elements of Hip-Hop: MCing, DJing, breakdancing, graffiti, and knowledge.  These artifacts reveal how Hip-Hop has been intricately woven into the fabric of Boston's everyday life, profoundly influencing its language, fashion, and communal spaces.

The event featured vendors, break dancing, an expert panel discussion, free food, graffiti artists at work and giveaways.

The Greenway Public Art Program is exclusively funded through grants and private sources, Hip-Hop Seen/Unseen, 2023 was made possible through the generous support of The Barr Foundation, The Greenway Business Improvement District, Goulston & Storrs, and G. Ortiz Photography.

Trailblazing Rusti Pendelton stands between me and curator Pacey Foster.  He was known as Rusty the Toe Jammer as he scratched records with his feet.  A set of my images documenting him performing was in offered in Sotheby's first ever Hip-Hop Auction in 2020.  Click and scroll down to view.

The Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archives at UMass Boston -

Located across from Boston's train station on busy thoroughfare, the exhibition garnered attention from passersby.

I had a chance to meet and connect with another featured photographer John Brewer.  Of course, we were talking technique and cameras. Find him at @jbrewerphoto

Mad Mike of The Floor Lords poses with archival images (not mine). Curator Pacey Foster remarked, "It's magical seeing grown adults turning back to teenagers when they see themselves."  The Floor Lords, a Hip-Hop Breakin Crew since 1981, performed at the event and posted a wonderful video collage.  @floorlordsboston

Shawn Peete then and now.  He poses in the middle of the lower photo that I captured during Maurice Starr's 1986 Hollywood Talent Night.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Arts, Media, and Design Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at and teaches online Zentangle drawing workshops.