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Cey Adams Celebrates 40 Years of Art and Design

From Street Graffiti to Global Galleries, Cey Adams Celebrates 40 Years of Art and Design in Retrospective Exhibition by BUAG

Photo by Robert Bredvad

More than Sixty Works to Survey Adams’ Extensive Body of Work Across Multiple Art Mediums

Boston University Art Galleries presents the career-spanning work of Cey Adams, a New York-based visionary artist working at the forefront of design, culture, innovation and collaboration, in CEY ADAMS, DEPARTURE: 40 Years of Art and Design—a retrospective exhibition on display from October 4-December 11, 2022. Featuring more than 60 pieces that encompass his work through photography archives, mixed media collage, paintings, textile, fashion, street art, contemporary fine art and more, the exhibition, curated by Liza Quiñonez of Street Theory, is a visual timeline of the artistic evolution of Adams and a body of work influenced by themes of pop culture, race and gender relations, cultural and community issues.

The first solo exhibition to be hosted in the newly renovated Stone Gallery, and the first solo retrospective exhibition for Adams, the collection celebrates and surveys his extensive practice and transformative role in multiple cultural art and music movements over the last four decades. The chronological work on display begins in the late 1970’s, where he began to hone his art skills by painting graffiti on the streets and trains of New York City. While street art begins to leak into the city’s high-end galleries, the exhibition follows Adams to his work as founding Creative Director for Def Jam Recordings where he gave visual life to the Hip-Hop movement and created visual identities, album covers, logos, and advertising campaigns for musical giants like Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Notorious B.I.G., Maroon 5, and Jay-Z. A large installation featuring more than 50 album covers conceived and designed by Adams will headline this part of his career before exploring his studio practice.

Unique and meaningful collaboration with global house-hold brands like IDEO, Apple, Foot Locker, Converse, Pabst Blue Ribbon, YouTube, and Google give way to Adams’ signature use of colorful curves, shapes, and letterforms that evoke nostalgia of a bygone era across multiple mediums and consumer platforms. The exhibition will spotlight Adams’ long term and notable artistic partnership with Levi’s® with the display of LOVE— a custom chain-stitch embroidered denim trucker jacket created by

Cey Adams x Levi’s® Eureka Innovation Lab, while paying homage to his graffiti days of hand painting designs on vintage Levi’s® apparel for his family and friends. Additionally, the collection will boast of Adams’ recent collaboration with Mattel Creations, to showcase a one-of-a-kind 5-foot 3-D sculpture of a reimagined Hot Wheels logo that utilizes printed materials from the brands archives and concept art from the 60s and 70s. To celebrate the retrospective and Adams’ first sculpture work, Mattel Creations is debuting a limited-edition Cey Adams x Hot Wheels custom diecast van, inspired by Adams’ iconic ‘LOVE’ murals, available for purchase through Mattel Creations on October 7.

“The singular focus of my art is to be a bridge that brings people closer together, explains Adams. “This career retrospective is a reflection of how graffiti, street art, and Hip-Hop have unified people and in turn created a movement with lasting impact on popular culture,” he continues.

“This exhibition is the best way to kick off our new season, as we are not only celebrating a talented artist, but we also get to see the progression of his work over 40 years,” adds Lissa Cramer, Boston University Art Galleries director. “Cey’s diversity in mediums and genres has allowed him a prosperous career as a working artist. What a great model for our students and our gallery-goers!”

Following Boston, the exhibition has plans to travel throughout the United States in several markets, encouraging audiences to embrace the journey between transformation, deconstruction, discovery, and dialogue.

• 30+ original artwork
• 30+ photography archives by and from @ceyadams_archives @marthacoopergram @janettephoto @thelazyhustler @bredvad
• A special @defjam art installation
An exclusive mega mix by @dj7l
• An intimate behind the scenes video by @mosesmitchell and @readycinematic
• Collaborations with @garylichtensteineditions @janettephoto @lucytupustudio @mattelcreations @levis

Thank you to all of our sponsors, collaborators and supporters NCF @makeebamccreary @ideo @marka_27 @problak and countless others!

Exhibition Details

CEY ADAMS, DEPARTURE: 40 Years of Art and Design will be on display to the public

October 4- December 11, 2022, Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am- 5:00pm Admission is FREE.

*The exhibition will be closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays

The BU Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery is located at 855 Commonwealth Avenue inside Boston University College of Fine Arts, and accessible by the B Green line to Amory Street Station. Visitor parking is available at the Agganis Arena parking lot at 925 Commonwealth Avenue. For more information on transportation, visit

Cey Adams, a New York City native, emerged from the downtown graffiti movement to exhibit alongside fellow artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He appeared in the historic 1982 PBS documentary Style Wars which tracks subway graffiti in New York. Adams served as Creative Director for Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons’ Def Jam Recordings, where he co-founded the Drawing Board, the label’s in-house visual design firm. While there, he created visual identities, album covers, logos, and advertising campaigns for Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Notorious B.I.G., Maroon 5, and Jay-Z.

He exhibits, lectures, and teaches art workshops at institutions including: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of the City of New York, New York University, Temple University, MoCA Los Angeles, Stamford University, Howard University, among others. He co-authored DEFinition: The Art and Design of Hip-Hop (Harper-Collins); designed Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli); and designed the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap (Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings), a box set including a 300-page book and nine CD set.

Cey’s work explores the relationship between transformation and discovery. His practice involves dismantling various imagery and paper elements to build multiple layers of color, texture, shadow, and light. Cey draws inspiration from 60s pop art, vintage sign painting, and comics. His work focuses on themes including pop culture, race and gender relations, cultural and community issues. He has collaborated with many global brands including IDEO, Apple, Levi’s, Foot Locker, Converse, Pabst Blue Ribbon, YouTube, and Google. For more information, visit or on Instagram at @ceyadams.

The Boston University Art Galleries is located at 855 Commonwealth Avenue inside the College of Fine Arts. The gallery is located on the Boston University campus (Amory Street stop on the “B” Green Line.) Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11am–5pm, (Closed Sundays, Mondays and Holidays.) For more information, visit

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 34,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 17 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. Learn more at

Established in 1954, Boston University College of Fine Arts (CFA) is a community of artist-scholars and scholar-artists who are passionate about the fine and performing arts, committed to diversity and inclusion, and determined to improve the lives of others through art. With programs in Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts, CFA prepares students for a meaningful creative life by developing their intellectual capacity to create art, shift perspective, think broadly, and master relevant skills. CFA offers a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs, as well as a range of online degrees and certificates. Learn more at

Street Theory | | @streettheorygallery, is an award-winning creative agency that activates communities, spaces, and global brands through street-art, experiential marketing, cultural placemaking, branding and design. An artist-owned agency, founded by Liza Quiñonez and renowned graffiti/ street-artist Marka27, their work has yielded 20 years of experience in large scale public art production, arts administration, art and design direction, exhibitions and special events. They support artists through highest levels of creative expression and strategic planning in the areas of lifestyle, hospitality, retail, real estate, urban planning, and community development, and pride themselves in authentic experiences, bringing art and street culture into all aspects of life and work– from curating and producing events to empowering communities and working with some of today’s most talented and influential artists.