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March 27, 2017

Two artists from very different cultures bring their talents together in a unique collaboration at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: the pop-up exhibition “Kung Fu Wildstyle.” It will be on view April 1–30.

The month long pop-up exhibition features works by hip-hop entrepreneur Fab 5 Freddy and Hong Kong graffiti and hip-hop pioneer MC Yan. Together, they explore the relationship between Kung Fu movies and urban culture.
“Kung Fu Wildstyle” looks specifically at the influence of Bruce Lee and kung fu on 1970s New York City street culture and the emerging hip-hop scene. Fab and MC Yan also show how this influence came full circle when hip-hop inspired a generation of Hong Kong street kids in the 1990s. Their paintings have exhibited in New York, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The Sackler is hosting “Kung Fu Wildstyle” in celebration of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibition, related exhibition and public programs highlight connections between African American and East Asian art, music and film.

Related “Kung Fu Wildstyle” Exhibition:
Fab 5 Freddy and MC Yan: New Work 
April 1–29
Hyphen DC
1402 Okie St. N.E.
Washington, D.C.
New paintings by both artists will be on view Thursday–Saturday, 1–6 p.m.


“Kung Fu Wildstyle” Opening Reception
Saturday, April 1
2–4 p.m.; free
Sackler sublevel 3
Visitors can mingle with the artists and enjoy free refreshments to celebrate the opening of “Kung Fu Wildstyle.”

“Kung Fu Wildstyle” Kickoff Presented by Shaolin Jazz
Saturday, April 1
8 p.m.–midnight; screening begins at 9:30 p.m.; free
To celebrate “Kung Fu Wildstyle,” the music collective Shaolin Jazz will present a special edition of Can I Kick It?, a unique experience catered to lovers of kung fu flicks and the music these films inspired. DJ 2-Tone Jones mixes a score to accompany a cult-classic martial arts film. He blends hip-hop, soul, funk and more to create a live soundtrack to the movie, using music and mixing techniques to accentuate scenes and fight sequences. To kick off Fab 5 Freddy and MC Yan’s exhibition, this event features a special screening of the iconic Five Fingers of Death, which helped usher in America’s kung fu film craze of the 1970s and ’80s. Five Fingers of Death, licensed by Celestial Pictures Limited. All rights reserved.

“Kung Fu Wildstyle”
Sunday, April 2
1 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Panelists: Fab 5 Freddy, MC Yan, Sean Dinsmore
Fab 5 Freddy, MC Yan and Sean Dinsmore, who organized “Kung Fu Wildstyle” exhibitions in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York City, will discuss the connections between African American and Asian pop culture. They also explore how martial arts icon Bruce Lee inspired their paintings on view through April 30 at the Sackler. A talk will follow the screening of the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon.

Enter the Dragon
Sunday, April 2
2:30 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater, National Museum of African American History and Culture
The last movie Bruce Lee made before his untimely death is one of the most popular kung fu films of all time. Lee plays a martial arts expert who infiltrates a competition on a wealthy drug dealer’s private island in order to avenge his sister’s death. But the plot is merely an excuse for some of the greatest fight scenes ever put on film. Also starring Jim Kelly, who would go on to become a major Blaxploitation star, Enter the Dragon ignited the kung fu craze in America and greatly inspired the rappers, break-dancers and street artists who founded hip-hop culture in 1970s New York City. (Dir.: Robert Clouse, Hong Kong/United States, 1973, 103 min., DCP, English)

Wild Style
Sunday, April 9
2 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater, National Museum of African American History and Culture
In person: Charlie Ahearn, director
The film that inspired “Kung Fu Wildstyle’s” title is a colorful time capsule of the creative cauldron of hip-hop and street art in 1980s New York City. Charlie Ahearn’s docudrama features appearances by Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, the Cold Crush Brothers, Lady Pink and other icons of the era. It stars Lee Quinones in a version of himself: a graffiti artist hustling his way to art world success while trying to woo his capricious girlfriend. What resonates today is Ahearn’s focus on the creativity and exuberance of the people he documents. He also captured the then-devastated South Bronx as an urban wasteland crisscrossed by trains on elevated tracks, which street artists of the day turned into monumental pop art. (Dir.: Charlie Ahearn, United States, 1983, 82 min., Blu-ray)

The LA Uprising 25 Years Later
Thursday, April 27
Oprah Winfrey Theater, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Twenty-five years ago, the Rodney King beating resulted in a revolt that shook Los Angeles and the rest of the country. The narrative of African American and Asian American conflict was spread across the media and continues to inform Afro-Asian relations in the United States. Community organizers who were present during the events of 1992, along with changemakers leading today’s movements toward reconciliation and coalition will hold a panel discussion. Copresented with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.


The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer, which will be closed during the exhibition, is scheduled to reopen Oct. 14, with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium.