Saturday, July 16, 2011
Art in the Streets at the Geffen Contemporary
So what happens to street art when it is taken off the streets and 'institutionalized'? While in LA, we visited MOCA's Geffen Contemporary to find out. The end result is apparently a very popular exhibition with British artist Banksy sponsoring free admission on Mondays to make the show more accessible to a wider audience. He is quoted as saying “I don’t think you should have to pay to look at graffiti. You should only pay if you want to get rid of it." His comment appears to be a little dig at those people who view all street art as unsightly graffiti which needs to be eradicated.
'Art in the Streets' is a big show which aims for a broad overview incorporating illustrated timelines, documentary photography, skate boarding videos and unique car art alongside huge pieces painted directly on to the walls.
The artists shown here include top left Blade, top right Saber, cars by Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring, and bottom left Margaret Kilgallen, and photographs by Estevan Oriol.
Large as this exhibition is, there are of course, many influential street artists who are not included (Mat Gleason gives an interesting overview), and there was one piece controversially edited out - Italian artist Blu's anti-war mural depicting coffins covered by dollar bills. Hyperallergic shares the details.
Ironically, Blu's experience of having his completed work immediately whitewashed out, is typical of the reality for most street artists. Pieces are often subversive, political, or on private property. It is difficult to maintain this innate subversive quality when street art is transferred to a public museum environment, although the cheeky little characters in the bathroom stalls could almost pass as unauthorized interventions.
'Art in the Streets' is no longer street art, but it is a high energy show which will give a lot of artists a much wider profile, and bring a lot of new visitors to the MOCA Geffen.