So what’s going on here? Why no bids? Do people not want to buy expensive art online? Do people not want to sell good art through an online auction? And what about things like that Richard Hambleton piece going for super cheap, compared to what galleries are trying to sell his work for? I guess that’s that bubble burst, yet again (his auction results are usually much lower than his gallery prices). Maybe one big plus about auctions like this is that they cut through all that hype. Unlike an auction at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, artnet auctions don’t have auctioneers and specialists goading buyers to spend big. And at a quick glance, some of the opening bids look high. Anyway, I’m not going to look through every single listing, but I suspect there might be a few deals hidden in this flop of an auction, if you can wade through everything else.
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).
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re the Jeffrey Deitch or museum-hating type, the next few weeks are not going to be your favorite weeks, at least not when it comes to Vandalog posts. I’m gonna be talking a lot about this topic. I could hardly be more excited for MOCA‘s upcoming Art In The Streets show, and some substantive information about the show is finally starting to come out:
First of all, what lots of people have been asking for: a solid and confirmed opening date. Art In The Streets opens on April 17th.
The MOCA iteration includes a lot of West Coast stuff like Cholo graffiti and writers like Revok and Saber.
Oh, clarification on the last point: The show movies to The Brooklyn Museum next March. Presumably the show will be refocused a bit NYC graffiti for that iteration.
The show will include some mini-shows within it including a space dedicated to The Fun Gallery, a RAMELLZEE installation and Todd James, Barry McGee, and Steve Powers’ new iteration of their legendary Street Market show.
Because MOCA is looking at skateboarding as art on the streets too, there will be a custom skate ramp in the museum and Nike’s skateboarding team will be skating there throughout the run of the show.
There will be a film festival component to the show.
So yeah. Sounds good. Can’t wait for the opening. If this show succeeds, it could be the American equivalent of Banksy Versus The Bristol Museum in terms of impact.
Futura has done a series of t-shirts with 12ozProphet. Kind of cool. I’m not usually a fan of straight up logo shirts, but Futura’s style trumps my usual reservations and the white t-shirt is just a straight photo of a Pointman sketch, which I think is cool. Check out some more full sets of images on12oz. These shirts will be available very soon (about 2 and a half hours from now as of this post being published) on the 12oz website.
No word yet on the priceUPDATE: Shirts are $32-36, but there is a giveaway that Hypebeast and 12ozProphet are running where you can win a free shirt. You can check out all the rules and prizes here. Seems a bit complicated to enter, but I imagine Futura fans will think it’s worth it for a t-shirt or even a photo print.
And here’s a great video interview that 12oz have done with Futura:
As I mentioned earlier this week, Os Gêmeos and Futura were working on a massive wall at PS 11 in NYC. Today, I’ve got a few more photos of the wall in progress to share. The wall was finished on Thursday or Friday and you can check out photos of the finished piece on Unurth, but I’m waiting to see if I can get some more of these really high quality photos of the finished piece, so expect to see some of those on Vandalog in the next few days.
And how did this massive wall come about? It was organized by 12ozProphet and AKANYC, a creative agency that had worked with Deitch Projects (the organizers of the twins’ last mural in New York).
Okay, pretty much everybody who knows graffiti knows that Futura is an important dude and that he knows how to paint. Well this video from his LA solo show in 2008 really shows me just how influential Futura has been and continues to be. Everyone from Pete Wentz to Revok to Slick love what this guy does and cite him as an important figure in their creative lives.
This year the art fairs in Miami are going to be complimented with two massive mural projects.
First, the classic: Primary Flight came out with their promo video yesterday. PF have been doing a mural project in Miami for a few years, and their line up is a grab bag of awesomeness with artists like Ron English, The London Police, Logan Hicks and Revok. Here’s the video:
And then there is a the guy in town: The Wynwood Walls is a project by Jeffrey Deitch. The line up isn’t as expansive, but the names are all international superstars like Swoon, Barry McGee, Futura, and Os Gemeos.
There’s even a lot of overlap between the projects with artists like Shepard Fairey and Aiko painting for both groups.
Naturally, I’ll be there filming for Babelgum and taking photos for Vandalog.
Two major graffiti shows have opened (and one has closed) without me saying a thing. Sometimes I get too involved in street art and forget about graffiti and its awesomeness.
First is Futura’s Odyssey Two which was in Berlin but closed on the 27th. Futura is a graffiti legend, so I’m always interested in seeing some new work from him. Here are a few pics and a video interview:
And graffiti show number two is all the way in Santa Monica, California at Robert Berman Gallery. Retna and Mac are big names in California, but have yet to really become as well known over here in Europe. Known Gallery has a bunch of pics you can check out from the private view, but unfortunately I can’t download them to use on Vandalog so here’s the show’s flyer: