Martha Cooper has the story on Katsu at MOCA

Photo by Martha Cooper

Over at her blog on 12ozProphet, Martha Cooper has a series of photos documenting the work of Katsu, Blade, Rime, Freedom and Os Gêmeos at MOCA. Cooper had a behind-the-scenes look at how things transpired after Katsu hit the MOCA building with a fire extinguisher tag just a few days before Art in the Streets was due to open inside. That night, the wall was buffed, and then it looked like this:

Photo by Martha Cooper

Of course, that wouldn’t do. Os Gêmeos had been scheduled to paint a mural on that wall, but they decided that they did not want to go over Katsu, which is how they ended up painting the MOCA ticket booth. A replacement had to be found.

Similar to the wall that Lee Quinones, Futura, Cern, Push, Risky and OG Abel collaborated on just on the other side of the building which had originally been the site of Blu’s buffed mural, repainting over Katsu’s spot would have to be a collaborative effort. Freedom sketched a tribute piece to Blade, using some of his most iconic images. A few people painted the outline of the Blade tribute, and Rime came in to add the color. For more detail on the story and images of the entire process, check out Martha Cooper’s blog.

Photo by LindsayT

I don’t want to say that Blade does not deserve a tribute mural (he is one of my favorite early writers, particularly for the very piece that makes up the core of this tribute mural), but I think it is telling that no one writer would go over Katsu alone. MOCA has every right to do what they want with their own walls, which is why I don’t think the covering of Blu or Katsu’s pieces should be considered censorship, but I definitely wish that Katsu piece had stayed. The man is at the top of his game and a trailblazer in 21st century graffiti, so he deserved mention in the show as part of the next generation of great writers, and it just would have given the show a gritter feel. On the other hand, I don’t want to begin to imagine the problems that keeping that piece would have caused… At least Blade got some added props in the show and Os Gêmeos still painted something.

Photos by Martha Cooper and LindsayT

Review: Art in the Streets

Retna. Photo by Lord Jim

Last week, The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art opened an exhibit of street art and graffiti that promised to go down in history, Art in the Streets. It’s a massive exhibit of over 100 street artists and graffiti writers. I visited AITS three times, and still wasn’t satisfied that I’d appreciated the show fully. I think MOCA has delivered something special, but maybe did not quite fulfill that original promise.

I want to spend a good amount of time addressing criticisms of AITS, because that should not be ignored, even if they are far outweighed by the good of the show.

This isn’t the show that I would have put on. This isn’t the show you would have put on. AITS is the show that only Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose would have put on. Artists that I would have included without a moment’s hesitation (Judith Supine, Faile, Brad Downey, Jenny Holzer…) were oddly absent, and some artists in the show were out of place or allotted too much space (Geoff McFetridge, Terry Richardson, Mr. Cartoon…). For a show attempting to paint the picture of a history, the historical timeline was given a strange second billing to a hodgepodge of individual artist installations.

The selection process for a lot of the show seems like it was a political battle rather than an ideal model of art curating. When the curators’ names were announced, a good chunk of the show’s line up could already be predicted based on their personal relationships. Luckily, the curators are connected to many of the same people that anyone would have put in a similar show to AITS. What would this sort of show be without a contribution from some Beautiful Losers and artists who had shown at Deitch Projects? The unfortunate thing is that there definitely could have been less of a focus on those well-connected artists, and the many talented artists who aren’t connected to the curators probably had a harder time getting invited to be part of the show (or weren’t invited at all).

Os Gêmeos. Photo by RJ Rushmore

Briefly, it’s worth mentioning the lack of strong political artwork in the show. Any political statements made were “safe” ones, and the most controversial (Blu’s message of “war sucks and people make money off of it”) was removed. But just as all illegal street art and graffiti is inherently political, putting work by street artists and graffiti writers in a museum is a political act, even if the content of the work is not explicitly political.

The outdoor murals and the way MOCA has generally dealt with truly accepting the “street” side of street art and graffiti has also been a bit of a mess, but I think that would be true of almost any institution of MOCA’s size. The buffing of Blu’s mural and then the buffing of Katsu’s tag both tainted AITS, regardless of MOCA’s right to do what they want their walls, and the murals that replaced those two are not fantastic (although Push and Futura’s contributions to Lee’s mural work pretty well). And just this past week, Deitch’s inability to publicly defend and embrace illegal street art being committed near the museum has been laughable and depressing. Critics of the show are right to point out the hypocrisy of his position on the legitimacy of street art being produced today versus that of a few years ago. But just like it is the critics’ job to point out that hypocrisy, it is Deitch’s job to say politically wise things to reporters. Simply put, MOCA haven’t been very ballsy when it comes to the “in the streets” part of “Art in the Streets.” This minor fail is maybe what best points out what AITS is and what it isn’t.

In essence, the show has the wrong name. It is not “art in the streets.” It is “documentation of art in the streets or art by artists who began their careers by making art in the street but probably don’t do that too much now, or maybe they do but this is a different side of their artwork.” Yes, a lot of these artists still get up outdoors, but, for many but not all of the AITS artists, it’s a different sort of thing these days: OBEY posters are advertising, Banksy stencils are tourist attractions that last a few days before ending up on eBay and Steve Powers paints amazing murals for an organization founded with the expressed purpose of covering graffiti like his. I’m not saying that artists can’t or shouldn’t evolve, but many of the street artists and graffiti writers that AITS focuses on make “museum friendly” art. And that’s great for them. But AITS is not a show of art in the streets but art by artists who have, as I’ve heard a few people put it, “graduated” from the streets, even if they still get up a bit. As Unurth points out, there is a general lack of names from the last 10 years. So let’s reframe this for what the show is, and look at it that way. Putting aside the politics and minor flaws that only a street art or graffiti fanatic will pay much attention to, AITS is a huge hit.

AITS has two main components: it has a brief history of street art and graffiti, and it has mini-shows of fine art from some of the most acclaimed street artists, street culture documenters and graffiti writers over the last few decades.

Part of the timeline. Photo by Lindsay T

The timeline is the most “museum-y” part of the show, and it should provide newcomers a history of what graffiti, street culture and street art are about, as well as give long-time fans some new insights. While visitors should also take a trip to see the show currently on at Subliminal Projects to get a better idea about 1980’s street art in NYC, the timeline definitely does its job as a brief overview of the history informing the rest of AITS.

Most of the highlights of the show can be found in the installations.

Three of the best installations make a point of acknowledging that their work is in a museum, even though AITS is meant to be about illegal outdoor art. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Street art and graffiti is about good placement and understanding context. Neckface, Os Gêmeos and the trio of Barry McGee, Todd James and Steve Powers all understand this very well, and it came across in their installations.

Neckface. Photo by Gelatobaby

Neckface’s section was billed as one of his “haunted house” installations, but ended up being a recreation of a dark inner-city alleyway (complete with a drunk, drugged up or just plain crazy homeless man) with some Neckface tags on the walls. Of course, suits and bloggers like me were lined up to check it out, but few of us would be smiling so much if we actually found ourselves alone in that sort of an alleyway at 3 in the morning. That’s the street, the thing MOCA is supposed to be celebrating. It is like a voyeuristic natural history exhibit for historically middle and upper class museum visitors, pointing out the impossibility and absurdity of bringing the streets indoors in the fashion that the title of the show suggests.

Os Gêmeos reinstalled a show that they had last year at a museum in Portugal. It was definitely a highlight of the show, with a little bit of everything from the twins. Hidden in a bit in their cluster of work was one piece of wood where it was written: “This is not graff the graffiti is outside!!” Simple. That installation is their fine art and it is awe inspiring and thought provoking and should be seen. The graffiti is outside. And so is the street art.

Os Gêmeos. Photo by RJ Rushmore
Street (Barry Mcgee, Todd James and Steve Powers). Photo by Gelatobaby

And then there is Street. Barry McGee aka Twist, Steve Powers aka ESPO and Todd James aka Reas reunited to make a new version of their historic Street Market installation, versions of which had previously been put on at Deitch Projects and the Venice Biennale. First of all, this might be the best installation in the show. Particularly when the area isn’t too crowded with other museum-goers, it’s like being transported into another, more Technicolor and mad, world. It’s a graffiti writer’s urban dreamworld where taggers can hide invisible bushes and bodegas sell cans of street cred. The space is an art-crowd friendly dreamworld of a street, where Style Wars isn’t a documentary but a musical without any real-world consequences. Again though, the installation touches on the impossibility of bringing a true street inside, going for the asurd illusion instead. Street is what would happen if graffiti writers could have a ride at Disneyland, and I mean that in the best way, but it’s still a ride at Disneyland rather than an actual street and the artists know it.

Street (Barry Mcgee, Todd James and Steve Powers). Photo by RJ Rushmore
Street (Barry Mcgee, Todd James and Steve Powers). Photo by RJ Rushmore

The show is just too massive to write about everything. This review is already far too long. Sections by Margaret Kilgallen, Roa (who again, understands that he is in a museum), Invader (who plays with the fact that he is in a museum), Shepard Fairey, Banksy, The Fun Gallery, Rammellzee, Retna, Chaz Bojorquez, Swoon, Kaws, Ed Templeton and many others add together to be the most substantial gathering of art by this group of artists that has ever been assembled. I rediscovered artists I’d overlooked, found new favorites and enjoyed revisiting the work of my old favorites. The show is so massive that a pessimist will undoubtedly find something that they do not like and many visitors will be overwhelmed, but it would be difficult to go through the entire show and not find a few gems, no matter your taste in art.

Swoon. Photo by RJ Rushmore

For a moment, forget about the BS and the politics and the buffing and Deitch-hating and Alleged Gallery controversies from a decade ago and the lack of this person and that person and why this person got an installation and that person painted a mural and blah freaking blah. Outside of our art-world BS political pissing contest context where AITS can and will be criticized on many levels, people are going to visit AITS and they’re going to see some amazing art by artists who were and are pillars of street art and graffiti history. I expect that the vast majority of visitors will like what they see and they will learn something. And that’s important. This is street art. It’s supposed to be for “the people,” and “the people” will still enjoy this show even if my or your 4th favorite artist was snubbed or whatever other minor flaw you can find. And if you go and visit the show and you can put aside your minor internal art world squabbles for a couple of hours, AITS should be a magical experience for you, just as it was for me. I highly recommend setting aside a day to visit AITS.

Photos by Lord Jim, Gelatobaby, LindsayT and RJ Rushmore

Weekend link-o-rama

Ad disruption by Homer. Check out more on Rebel Art

Because I missed this post last week, this is kind of a long Link-o-rama. Definitely at least check the first link here.

Photo by Homer

Trouble with some “young taggers who are anarchic”

Invader inside of MOCA for Art in the Streets

As I mentioned yesterday, the LAPD and LA residents are getting their feathers all ruffled because street artists and graffiti writers have been getting up in LA a lot over the last week or so, particularly in the Little Tokyo neighborhood where MOCA’s Art in the Streets show is located. When asked about this activity, museum director Jeffrey Deitch told Culture Monster that it could be attributed to, “some of the young taggers who are anarchic…. It’s a language of youth culture, and we can’t stop it. It goes with the territory.” Well, as I also pointed out yesterday, those young taggers include some of the most established artists in Art in the Streets (including Barry McGee and Shepard Fairey). Well now it looks like two artists (most likely Invader and an assistant) have been arrested (correction: detained but not arrested) for putting up some work in Little Tokyo. The two suspected vandals have French passports, and they “were each carrying plastic buckets and inside there was glue or grout, plastering equipment and tiles.” That sounds like Invader to me, whose art is part of Art in the Streets (see photo above), but nobody has confirmed that it was Invader so this is just speculation on my part. If Invader and a friend do get arrested, I wonder if MOCA will bail them out…

Sure, Deitch is trying to be diplomatic by calling street artists anarchic taggers, but I find it a bit insulting. Yes, a museum exhibit of street art and graffiti is going to lead to an increase in street art and graffiti near the museum, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I just wish Deitch could try to put a positive spin on the new street art in Little Tokyo. As it is, he sounds a bit absurd celebrating street artist who have moved their art indoors and dissing street art when it appears outdoors, its rightful location.

Anyway, good luck to Invader, or whichever Frenchmen were arrested (correction: detained) for suspected vandalism.

Photo by helhimchee

Black Socks ask “What’s Art in the Street?”

In reference to the Art in the Streets show on now at MOCA in LA, the Black Socks movement sent out the above image with the following statement:

1_ Art in the streets isn’t domestication of artists
…it’s freedom for artists.

2_ Art in the streets isn’t people manipulation…
…it’s an approach to people.

3_ Art in the streets isn’t city decoration…’s a reflection about cities.

4_ Art in the streets isn’t governments advertising…
…it’s a criticism about how governments are doing.

5_Art in the streets isn’t market speculation…
…it’s free, for all the people!

6_Art in the streets isn’t art on museums, nor art on galleries, nor Street Art…
…it’s just art in the streets.

It’s false that Street Art has turned street into a museum…
Street Art has turned street into an amusement park!

Sugar free cities!

Certainly an idealistic view of street art, but there’s definitely something to be said for being an idealist. It’s certainly more fun that being a realist!

Photo by Black Socks

Art in the Streets link-o-rama

The entrance at Art in the Streets

Why haven’t hotels figured out that they should have strong free wifi in all rooms? And, if they make you pay for wifi, the signal and speed had better be amazing? Starbucks has it figured out, and I don’t have to pay a boatload of money to hang out in a Starbucks for a couple of hours (unless I’m drinking their coffee while I’m there). And yet, hotels haven’t seemed to get the message. So that problem, and the general busyness of the last few days in LA, is why I am woefully late covering the opening of Art in the Streets at MOCA in LA, probably the biggest indoor event this year relating to street art or graffiti. And I’m still going to be woefully late with coverage today. Expect a full review in a couple of days, but in the mean time, here’s some of the best reviews and coverage from around the web:

Katsu puts a massive tag on MOCA (for real this time)

Update: Here’s a photo of the piece being buffed in the middle of the night.

Katsu might be New York City’ smartest writer. He used a fire extinguisher to tag a massive wall on the outside of MOCA in LA, right by the entrance to their Art in the Streets show. Of course we can never be 100% sure what goes on behind closed doors, but from all I’ve heard, this was a legitimately illegal hit. He’s faked this sort of thing before with some clever video editing, but apparently this one is real. While I haven’t seen any photos of the piece taken by random passersby or reputable graffiti photographers, I’ve heard from folks in LA that this is real.

Here’s the video of him painting the piece in broad daylight:

So now the question is: What happens next? This may sound crazy, but I’d be more upset about this piece being buffed than Blu’s mural on MOCA, precisely because illegal pieces like this are what cannot be brought into a museum context except through bold actions like Katsu actually going up and hitting the building like graffiti writers are supposed to do. In fact, I’m surprised it took this long. I’ve been saying since December how the MOCA building is a perfect target for a writer with a fire extinguisher.

And, as I’m writing this, someone has posted a comment on the YouTube video saying that the wall has already been buffed… If that’s true, damn. Well, it’s MOCA’s right as property owner to do what they want and that can’t be denied (just as it would be fair for Katsu to hit the spot again), but still definitely sucks. I would’ve loved for that to be the first thing people saw as they entered the museum for Art in the Streets. I just hope they find a good artist willing to paint that spot instead (and one that Katsu won’t immediately tag over).

Even in the off chance that the video is a fake, well, he’s still got his name out there in the digital world, hence, successfully achieving fame almost as if it were real.

Weekend link-o-rama

ECB at work on a mural in NYC with Robots Will Kill and OverUnder

Steph is here in Philly now and tomorrow Jordan Seiler, Gaia, and Marc and Sara Schiller will be here too. Pretty good week. Plus, Art in the Streets is almost here and I’ll be in LA for that. Hopefully see some of you there. Here’s some (Philadelphia-centric) news to enjoy over the weekend:

Photo by Becki Fuller

Exclusive: Art in the Streets – The COMPLETE artist list

JR for Art in the Streets

Last night, the LA Weekly revealed the list of almost all the artists in MOCA’s Art in the Streets show, opening next week. Here it is:

Alexis Ross, Andre, A-One,Barry McGee, Bear 167, Bill Daniel, Bill Ray, Blade, Charlie Ahearn, Chaz Bojorquez, Coco144, Cost, Craig Costello, Craig R. Stecyk III, Crash, Dan Murphy, Dash Snow, Daze, Delta, Devin Flynn, Don Leicht, Dondi, Drugs, Ed Templeton, Eine, Erik Brunetti, Estevan Oriol, Fab 5 Freddy, Freedom, Futura, Gordon Matta-Clark, Gusmano Cesaretti, Haze, Henry Chalfant, Howard Gribble, Hugh Holland, Invader, Irak, Iz the Wiz, Jamie Reid, James Prigoff, Jane Dickson, Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Ahearn, John Fekner, Jon Naar, Josh Lazcano, JR, Kaws, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Kiely Jenkins, Koor, Lady Pink, Larry Clark, Lee Quinones, Loomit, Malcolm McLaren, Mare 139, Margaret Kilgallen, Mark Gonzales, Martha Cooper, Miss Van, Mister Cartoon, Mode 2, Neckface, Noc, Os Gêmeos, Patti Astor, Phase 2, Rammellzee, Retna, Revok, Revolt, Revs, Risk, Roa, Robbie Conal, Ron English, Saber, Sharp, Shepard Fairey, SJK161, Snake 1, Spike Jonze, Stelios Faitakis, Stephen Powers, Steve Grody, Swoon, Taki 183, Teen Witch, Terry Richardson, Todd James, Toxic, Tracy 168, Zephyr.

The LA Weekly also reports that there is one more “extra bonus artist.” We here at Vandalog can exclusively complete the line up for Art in the Streets and say that the one extra bonus secret artist is…. Banksy!

I’m being sarcastic. The final artist is Banksy, but that isn’t news. Banksy’s involvement in the show was confirmed by Deitch MONTHS ago in the LA Times.

So yeah, that’s the full line up for Art in the Streets. Not the exactly list that I or anyone would’ve come up with, but I think it’s an overall solid show. A bit heavy on the LA writers and there are some big gaps, but I’m still thinking this will be an interesting show. One important thing has been pointed out to me though: This show could very well define all future street art and graffiti museum shows. Any gaps in Art in the Streets could easily carry on for a long time to come. Should Jeffrey Deitch be the definer of street art? I can’t think of many people better suited for the task, but I’m not sure any single person should have that responsibility to begin with… So I think it’s important to keep in mind that this list, and this show, is not the end-all-be-all of street art history. To many people, what I’m saying is obvious, but I think it’s still worth a mention.

Photo by Brandon Shigeta