New Old School - Johnny Romeo

Johnny Romeo

New Old School

153 x 153 cmOil and Acrylic on canvasSoldDuring the late 1970s and early 80s, New York City was plagued by crime. In response, a group of volunteers called the Guardian Angels was formed to combat this widespread violence, particularly in the NYC subway system. These volunteer crime fighters had a unique style, blending military berets and puffer jackets with the emerging street fashion of the hip hop scene. In the painting New Old School, Johnny Romeo pays homage to the Guardian Angels by depicting a street-smart chimpanzee dressed as one of their members, complete with a beret and b-boy tracksuit. The chimp, shown deep in thought while wearing headphones, is reminiscent of Banksy's famous ‘Thinking Monkey’ but with a Kitsch Pop twist. Like the Guardian Angels, Romeo's socially conscious chimp contemplates how to better himself to improve the world around him. With one ear tuned to the ‘Rebel Chants’ of the city, a reference to Kool & the Gang's funky 1973 single ‘Jungle Boogie’, the chimp aims to use rebellion for positive change and become a b-boy ‘Rebel Champ.’ While the chimp's affinity for vintage Adidas tracksuits and Rebel Champ breakdancing competitions tethers him to the past, his commitment to overcoming his more primitive urges to transform himself into a Guardian Angel represents a new, enlightened mindset. Thus, Romeo's Rebel Chimp embodies the essence of the title New Old School, while also pointing to the resurgence of the Guardian Angels movement as a ‘new wave of the old school.’