Todd James‘ latest solo show opens this week at Lazarides Rathbone Place in London. The show, World Domination, will of course have some new works on canvas and paper, but the really exciting bit is that it will include a recreation of The Vandal’s Bedroom, part of James’ contribution to Street at Art in the Streets at the LA MOCA in 2011 (Street was a collaboration between James, Stephen Powers, and Barry McGee).
World Domination runs March 6th through April 11th.
V1 Gallery in Denmark celebrates its 10th year with Tonight We Won’t Be Bored; a massive show of 100 new works by artists like André, Kenny Scharff, Futura, Faile, Lydia Fong (aka Barry McGee), Barbara Kruger, Shepard Fairey, Steve Powers, Todd James, Andrew Schoultz, Thomas Campbell, Erik Parker, André, Neckface, Eine, Wes Lang, Clayton Brothers, and many others. The show opened on November 30th and runs through January 12th.
The Copenhagen gallery got its start in 2002, in a space which had formerly been used as a bakery. With their first exhibition being with Faile, they got the ball rolling pretty quick. By 2007 they moved to a larger space and later started curating shows and participating in art fairs around the world.
It’s officially spring break, which meant the last week for me has primarily consisted of sitting at my desk where I read and type furiously until my eyes are tearing up and my fingers are sore. It also means I could only blog when procrastinating and that the next few days should be a chance to write some longer posts that I’ve been sitting on. In the mean time, here’s what I’ve been finding around the web this week:
The Living Walls Conference has two great announcements this week: 1. They are now a 501(c)(3), aka an official non-profit organization. 2. In addition to the annual conference, there will be 6 “Living Walls Concepts” mini-events throughout the year, starting in March.
Craig Ward wrote a letter critiquing Banksy’s critique of advertisers. Given: Banksy is one of the world’s best marketers himself. Beyond that, the letter is a bit of a mess and Ward points out that he has worked in advertising himself. Clearly, it’s written from the perspective of someone who has lost his perspective and seems to boil down to “There’s worse stuff in the world, so umm, please leave advertisers alone.” No doubt that there are greater evils in the world than the public advertising that seems to be the primary target of Banksy’s critique of advertising, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Additionally, one of Ward’s points as to why traditional advertising isn’t as bad as Banksy’s advertising is that traditional advertisers pays for the locations they use. With that argument, Ward completely disregards both the negative externalities of massive ad campaigns that occur regardless of how much the advertiser pays (compared to the documented positive externalities of Banksy’s street art) and the illegal nature of many advertising campaigns which do not pay the government for the space that they use. By his standard, hiring an assassin to kill someone might be better than doing it yourself, because at least there’s money involved and somebody is getting paid for their time.
Well, while I had myself more or less locked in a library underground for the better part of last week, the art world did not stand still. And so we have this special Tuesday edition of the typically friday event – the link-o-rama:
Banksy has loaned a sculpture to a museum in Liverpool. Meh. Another artwork that just as easily could have been seen at any urban art group show, but it’s by Banksy so the BBC and the rest of us should apparently care. What is this? It’s not just with Banksy. Bloggers in particular, we seem to have this urge to always be the first to say “Yeah, I saw that girl’s work first and said she was cool” and a fear of being caught in a situation where everyone except us thinks that some artist or artwork is great. And now I’m rambling…
Knock Knock is a new online magazine with a lot about street art and graffiti in Australia.
Kunle Martins aka Earsnot aka the founder of the infamous IRAK crew participated in Wynwood Walls this year alongside Jesse Geller aka Nemel. Martha Cooper has shots of what they got up to and then the Wynwood Walls video series has a great episode on them. For some people, it may be hard to avoid comparisons to this wall by Barry McGee. 12ozProphet says “The building painted by IRAK for Wynwood Walls is inspired by Barry McGee’s tag-filled murals… Earsnot and Nemel build on Barry McGee’s tag wall concept by filling the wall with a variety of monochromatic shades of overlapping tags creating the illusion of depth.”
This week the Occupy Wall Street live streams have been very effective at distracting me from Vandalog, which I’m not too upset about. The violent and suppressive eviction of Occupy Wall Street is certainly more important that the latest swindle that some art gallery is trying to pull. Nonetheless, I have been paying attention even if I haven’t been writing, so here’s what’s been going on in the street art world this week:
This Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, Todd James and Steve Powers are showing their work from their installation Street from the Art in the Streets show at MOCA in LA earlier this year. Other members of Powers’ ICY Signs studio will also be showing their work.
Swoon musical project in New Orleans, Dithyrambalina, is coming along. Artists involved in the collaborative installation are performing a show called The Music Box on November 19th and December 10th. Here’s a trailer, which includes some of their October 22nd performance. Beautiful work, but I’m sure it’s something that really needs to be seen in person.
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.
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.
Get ready for some irony: Jeffrey Deitch closes Deitch Projects and leaves to be director at MOCA in LA, Kathy Grayson aka Deitch’s right hand woman at Deitch Projects opens The Hole in NYC to fill the hole left by Deitch’s departure and now The Hole has a show opening in LA this Wednesday night to coincide with MOCA’s Art in the Streets show.
The Hole are putting on a show, Facemaker, at Royal/T in Culver City. Basically, Facemaker is a portraits show. Despite one of the silliest press releases I’ve read this month (“The show will explore interpretations of the most universal element of human perception: the face.”), the show looks to be something worth seeing. The line-up is beyond impressive. Here it is:
Ben Jones, Barry McGee, Kenny Scharf, Joe Grillo, assume vivid astro focus, Tomoo Gokita, Eric Yahnker, Jane Moseley, Olaf Breuning, KAWS, Ted Mineo, David Shrigley, Shepard Fairey, Eddie Martinez, Taylor McKimens, Francine, Speigel, Avery Newman, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Robert Lazzarini, Aurel Schmidt, Kembra Pfahler, Rivas & Tullie, Aaron Johnson, Brian Belott, Matt Leines, Swoon, Allison Schulnik, Clare Rojas, Jules de Balincourt, Michael Williams, Takeshi Murata, Anders Oinonen, Justin Samson, Misaki Kawai, Andrew Jeffrey Wright, Dennis Tyfus, Katherine Bernhardt, Todd James, Matt Greene, Stefan Bondell, Spencer Sweeney, Nate Lowman, Mat Brinkman, Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Billy Grant, Adam Tullie and FriendsWithYou
So regardless of a crazy press release, this is still something to get excited about. I’ll be there Wednesday at the opening (8pm-midnight) and the show runs through June 30th.
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.