AitS is a brief history of street art and graffiti with mini-shows of fine art from some of the most acclaimed street artists, street culture icons and graffiti writers over the last few decades. Created on the street, at night, often in inaccessible places, graffiti writing is itself a species of physical performance. It’s not surprising then that images of the artists and their friends appear everywhere in the exhibition. The convergence of street art and graffiti styles that emerged from housing projects, subway yards, and bleak suburban parking lots has become a global phenomenon. It continues to thrive and evolve forty years after it began. The strongest artistic innovations quickly become international, spreading from one city to another through a huge network of artists. Like other important artistic trends, the graffiti impulse could not be confined to one medium. The emergence of graffiti paralleled the genesis of hip-hop, its artistic vocabulary spilling over into break dancing, street fashion, and the language and rhythm of rap music.
Hello, my name is Gioele. I am Italian and since I love art I decided, on a hot Sunday morning, to go to see the exhibition at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles. I was so excited to take part in one of the most highly revered street art exhibitions in the world, probably the first with so much talent under one roof, that I even forget to wear socks, and my red shoes were not comfortable! Usually, my passion for this kind of art leads me to stroll around the street in search of new art work, but this time was different. All of the pieces were within the walls of one building! At first I was skeptical; it seemed unlikely that they could successfully recreate the “street” atmosphere in a building, but at MOCA they went straight to the point!”
Digital camera and map at hand, I am ready, here we go. After only a few steps inside I began to really appreciate the ambience: so open and fortunately not overcrowded… cars, ice cream trucks, walls, bright colors, crowd noises and lights introduce the visitor to the different periods of the movement, from early tagging in New York and Philadelphia in the 1960s, through cholo graffiti in L.A. in the ’70s, and the form’s emergence on the New York gallery scene in the ’80s.
Browsing the pages of the Art In The Street book - published by Skira Rizzoli 2011 - that I’ve bought, my eyes went to this interesting sentence about graffiti in New York.
“In the mid-1970s, the new york subways were like total works of art. Every square foot of the trains’surfaces, inside and out, was bombed with tags and throw-ups. A subway trip could be an immersion into utter urban anarchy or a shot of explosive artistic Energy –it was probably both!”
Talking about my favorite art work I can start with Osgemeos’ installation called “neckface.” With this installation, Osgemeos recreates the street atmosphere, a black dirty alley with real subway noises, including an old drunk man!
That is exactly the street, the thing MOCA is supposed to be celebrating. Another big strike for Deitch & Co. is the participation of the british artist Banksy. This the first time that he has agreed to take part in a major museum exhibition, although he is already famous all around the world through his satirical street art: a mix of dark-humour expressed with a unique stencil technique which focuses on political issues and consumption in society. His consacration in the world of street art was cemented last year with the film “Exit Through the Gift Shop” directed by Banksy for which he won Best Documentary at the Independent Film Festival. In the work he presented at the exhibition, he asked local high school students to tag panels in a myriad of colors and then framed them inside a drawing of a Gothic arch that resembles a stained glass window in a church. Below, he added an illustration of a praying figure kneeling next to a can of paint.
“We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves. I prefer to paint on the streets than in a museum, because if you exhibit in a gallery you have to compare against a Rembrandt, but if you paint down an alley you only have to compete against a trash can. I guess it’s the art equivalent of hanging around with fat people to make yourself look thin.” Banksy.
One of the most original ideas of the exhibition comes from Space Invader. He had placed his little icons, replicas of aliens from the early Space Invaders video game, this time not around the city as usual, but inside the exhibit building and created a map for the visitors.
Step by step, graffiti after graffiti, you can arrive in front of the “street market,” a collobaration between Todd James, Barry McGee, Stephen Powers. This installation is so impressive and so big. In just one moment the visitor can be transported into another freaky world, it’s like the ultimate Disney Ride for art vandals….mind blowing detail. The artists built here the vibe of the city, nasty shops, video games, lights, noises, so… YEAH !
Together with Blu, another italian contributor to the exhibition is the extraordinary photographer Gusmano Cesaretti. Born in Lucca, he moved to the States in the mid 70s where he started to document cholo gang graffiti in East LA and the lifestyle that surrounded it. A lot of his great pictures are included in the book “Street Writer: A Guided Tour of Chicano graffiti”.
One funny thing happened to me, when, going around with my fuchsia compact photo camera, borrowed from my sister, I was asked by a man if he could take a look at my camera. My cheap camera? I was thinking, why? And then he showed me, since he bought a similar one, he just wanted to see how mine took photos, and said “Oh this is good stuff, man!”
In the end, walking around the exhibition, up and down, through bright lights and colors, my feet felt so unconfortable without socks that I said to myself,
“Why don’t I go to the shop and see if I can buy some socks?!”
Incredibly enough, they had a pair of yellow socks. I could not believe it!! So i bought my fricking yellow socks, went to the bathroom and put them on. Strictly street style, in my opinion!
So, go see it & enjoy it !
Gioele Di Gianni.
APRIL 17–AUGUST 8, 2011 / THE GEFFEN CONTEMPORARY AT MOCA