Over the weekend, I finally made it into LA for the worlds first ever major “street art” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. A multitude of differing opinions have already been posted on numerous blogs, forums, and news sites, so I’m not going to bore you with a comprehensive rundown of the positives and negatives of the show, and how it has been presented.
“Art In The Streets” is an accomplishment of epic proportions. Gathering hundreds of the world’s most talented artists is an immense feat on its own, but to do it in an aesthetically pleasing way, and to give a fairly comprehensive history of the subculture is nothing less than amazing. From the original Basquiat’s and Haring’s to the “evolution of wildstyle” sketches from Zephyr, I was consistently blown away by the amount of history the exhibition contained.
I expected to love the parts of the exhibit inhabited by my favorite artists like Os Gemeos, every member of AWR/MSK/TSL, and Neckface, but the rest of the exhibitions amazed me as well. From the Lee Quinones mural (with the help of Cern One, Futura 2000, Risk, Sano, and Loomit), to seeing Northwest favorites like Myth VTS on miniature freight cars, to the ever-controversial Banksy who’s section of the exhibition was supremely fascinating, although not at all conducive to street art, the exhibit is through and through the most impressive museum exhibition I have ever seen.
Furthermore, the upstairs section of the museum, dedicated to the history of graffiti on both coasts, strikes a good balance between more general history of graffiti, and more in depth events (like the rise of cholo graffiti in Los Angeles) in order to appeal to casual museum goers and graff-heads alike.
Throughout my time at the museum, I was consistently amazed by each individual artist’s work and the way it was organized, but the truth of the matter is only a museum show. As well as all of the works functioned within the museum; those same artists work on the streets is entirely different. Banksy’s entire exhibit is extremely impressive in its totality, but the majority would seem irrelevant and out of place on the street.
After leaving MoCa, I walked around the Arts District for the last time before I head back to the Northwest for the summer, and remembered why I became interested in graffiti and street art in the first place. Each individual artist/crew has 100% creative control over what/where/when/how their art is placed on the street. In comparison, “Art In The Streets” seemed a little bit stuffy, and a little bit too refined. For example, The Seventh Letter section of “Art In The Streets” cannot compare to the incredible productions done by the same exact crew on the streets surrounding the museum.
“Art In The Streets” is an incredible success in terms of a contemporary art exhibition, and every participating artist should be applauded, but to call it the first ever “street art” show is both deceiving and inappropriate.