Art in the Streets

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Los Angeles, CA Okay, so the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA is not technically in the Orange County, but everybody who’s anybody was at this monster of an event! And you have to believe that OC Art Blog Followers were not going to miss out on this “members only” premiere. Art in The Streets is a huge milestone for street art as a whole, and for Los Angeles street art specifically. This event will go down in history. The first giant museum exhibit of street art from beginning to end. The exhibition covered the history of the art movement, from the giant graffiti lettering on trains with Cornbread, and leading as far down the road as Zephyr surfboards and skateboard art, and even to Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey and the infamous Banksy.

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The show has been surrounded by controversial issues that I will not go into detail about at this particular point in time, but its safe to say this exhibit leaves the viewer asking all kinds of questions. The curatorial decisions were interesting and make me wonder the specific motives for certain choices. The installations were over the top, eye-catching, fun-house-like mazes and dioramas. The installations housed some animatronic sculptures which lacked any unique inventiveness as robotic creations, they simply did as they were expected to do – spray paint on a wall. But the dollhouse-like set up for the majority of the exhibit was powerful and definitely helped lead the crowds through one particular route.

The artists represented in this exhibit were mainly heavy-hitting graffiti artists alongside some typographic vandals, cut-out artists, a couple stencilers, and very few wheat-pasters. The RVCA influence via Aaron Rose was so prominent that I felt it might have hindered the overall coverage of street art as a whole.  RVCA and Aaron Rose specifically are known for representing what they call the “Beautiful Losers” group (Aaron Rose made a documentary about such a group entitled Beautiful Losers). Almost all of the beautiful losers were exhibited in interesting, large installations, even with post-humus artist, Margaret Killgallen.

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The bookstore/gift shop had a line that wrapped around the corner and every person walking out of there had stacks of books in hand, and as a museum-goer you did have to exit just next to  – and not “through the gift shop”, which was a well thought out decision on Deitch’s part. The project as a whole was a huge success, the thousands of people entering and paying $25 per head (if you were not a MOCA member) were eager to be a part of this historic event. As the director for MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch had a hard task on his hand… How do you take street art off the street and display it in a museum setting? AND on top of that… How do you incorporate all aspects and avenues of street art into one exhibit? Jeffrey Deitch was quoted in the Huffington Post saying, “If you harness your talent you can be in a museum some day, make a contribution and a living from it.” With recent graffiti and vandalism spikes in the areas surrounding MOCA, Deitch also invites residents that receive these unsanctioned artworks on their private property to keep them safe, as the artist might be the next “Banksy”. Deitch is known for promoting and representing street artists in his gallery setting, but his choices for artists for this particular exhibit are curious. Very few contemporary STREET ARTISTS in Los Angeles were represented, specifically our well known wheat-pasters, cut-outs, and sticker crews here in L.A. The exhibit focused mostly on the big earners in the street-art-gallery realm, not the street itself. The historical balance was present, which is very important to understanding the movement as a whole, but questions that are still plaguing my mind after seeing this exhibition include… Who says which street artist has “made it”? The main venue for this art is in the street… What makes a sell-out anyway?… Why are so few of the L.A. up-and-coming street artists represented as part of this exhibit?… Why did the installations have to be over the top, disneyland-esque maze-rides?

Just some food for thought, I suppose. All in all, it is truly a show you cannot miss if you are in Southern California. Art in The Streets is up until August 8, 2011. Don’t miss it. and please, share with us what you think.

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-Evan A. Senn, contributing writer for OC Art Blog. Founder of R.A.R.W., www.rarwart.com

*photos courtesy of S.A. Hawkins (www.sahawkins.com)

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