Kenny Scharf will be at MOCA this weekend as part of the Levi’s Film Workshop video series at Art in the Streets for a Q&A about Kenny Scharf: More, Newer, Better, Nower, Funner, a short film that Malia Scharf and Nathan Meier have made a short film about Kenny. The film will also be premiering at the event, before being available online. The Q&A/screening will be at 3pm on Sunday. RSVP for free online.
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.
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.
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.
It’ll be interesting to see if Mr. Brainwash reacts to this. By the way, I met him last week and he signed my black book. As terrible as I think he is, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Maybe one day I’ll put the page on eBay and retire on the proceeds. Hopefully not. To be fair though, he was a super nice guy even though I think he knew that I hate his artwork, so that’s big of him.
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:
The LA Times reports on an increase in graffiti throughout LA because of the show. A. Umm… duh. B. MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch attributed this increase to “some of the young taggers who are anarchic,” but neglected to mention that some artists in Art in the Streets are involved too. Barry McGee, Amaze, ESPO and friends painted somegraffiti. I saw some McGee stickers around the museum. And Shepard Fairey’s crew has been hitting up electric boxes right out in front of MOCA without permission.
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 thingbefore 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.
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!
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.
LA Anonymous put up this poster in LA as a commentary on MOCA’s upcoming Art in the Streets show. It depicts museum director Jeffrey Deitch and major MOCA contributor Eli Broad. Hyperallergic has a bit more to say about the piece. We’ll see next week if the show is truly safe. I’m not sure if it will be or not, but I am expecting a circus (in a good way)…
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.
JR seems to be going non-stop with putting put murals in LA right now. The LA Weekly are covering that pretty well, but the above wall deserves a special mention. It’s part of the Geffen Contemporary at the MOCA, the same building where Blu‘s mural wasbuffedlastyear. This isn’t the same wall, but it’s the same building and JR did this mural for the same even, MOCA’s upcoming street art show. This is interesting because of the outcry over the buffing of Blu’s mural. There was definitely speculation that artists would pull out of the show over issues of censorship and to stand in solidarity with Blu. JR is the first artist since Blu to put up a wall as part of the MOCA show, which opens in April. Not to gloss over the events with Blu, hopefully this is a sign that the show will continue on without any more glitches and be a success. I suppose the other side of this is that someone could say that JR is turning his back on his principles or something, but I think that the TED folk generally are pretty smart about who they give large grants to.