Artwork by Banksy Roel Concepcion/redbullusa.com

In the first of his new and exclusive blogs for Red Bull on the world of graffiti, London-based artist Pochoir gives us his thoughts and insights on the Art in the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles.

The dust has (just about) settled at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles after last month’s opening of Art in the Streets. The show has fulfilled expectations for many and been recognised for the large-scale, epiphanic, watershed event that it is. Curators Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose put the exhibition together as one of Deitch’s first acts as head of MOCA and it is the first attempt by a major US museum to document and represent the history and the origins of artists who work outside, on the streets and in the spirit of graffiti. It is groundbreaking in its undertaking and it is purely and simply exciting for anyone with an interest in graffiti.

Having said that, it has also received some criticism. Some critics’ favourite artists did not get an invite – for me Dan Witz and Faile stand out as notable absentees. For certain, there was some politics involved in the artist selection, though there is still work by around 100 artists.

Some critics do not like the show because they think it glamourises illegal activity. Meh…

'Where the show as a whole really succeeds is in combining work by graffiti artists and street artists'

The most interesting critique of the show is that it is impossible to paint (usually illegal) street art in a museum. It simply is not the street. Some Art in the Streets artists countered this by installing faux-street installations in the museum. Like Oiticica’s Penetrables in London’s Tate Modern back in 2007, this gives a really voyeuristic feel of being in a ‘graffiti zoo’ where the natural environment of the graffiti artist is recreated for our amusement. But there are no ‘animals’ (ie the artists) present. Neckface’s work in AITS attempts this ‘real’ recreation and it feels a bit weird. Where the installation pieces work is where the artists do not try and hide the awareness that they are painting a museum piece, not a street piece. Barry McGee, ESPO and Os Gêmeos nail this.

Where the show as a whole really succeeds is in combining work by graffiti artists and street artists; these are subtle but importantly different classifications. Taki 183 and Saber share space with Swoon and Banksy; completely different artists in form, style and execution. Roger Gastman has been quite explicit about this – graffiti first originated, and still is about, getting your name up on the street for people to see. The biggest, boldest and most visible piece wins; graffiti written by graffiti writers, many of whom don’t want the moniker ‘street artist’.

Street Art, as Gastman says, is more political, it has a message apart from the writer’s name and it has flourished particularly since the internet has made sharing images easy. What Gastman and Deitch are saying is that graffiti and street art are different but equally worthy. They have a different message but a shared workspace and heritage. In years to come, people will not be talking about the politics of a scene but the art of a movement, and this is what anyone who loves street art or graffiti will be feeling…

Watch Pochoir at work here for the launch of his own adidas Five-Two-3 Superstar shoe…

 

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