One would have to be a true believer in the equally far-fetched hypothetical purity of either museums or graffiti art to get really hot under the collar about Jeffrey Deitch's MOCA magnum opus "Art in the Streets." Therein lies the ambitious exhibition's weakest link: the unsustainable suspension of disbelief required to entertain belief in this grandly operatic storyline, and its protagonists. You know the story I'm talking about, right? The one about how the stuffy repository of historically significant cultural artifacts and the scrappy band of semiotic revolutionaries established détente in order to move art history and human evolution forward into the bright, bright future.
Art historically, the most raggedy tag on the funkiest dumpster is more significant than anything MOCA or any other museum could muster at this point. In terms of bestowing legitimacy on an enterprise, the equation actually runs diametrically opposite to how it's being promoted: "Street Art" — even in the degraded illustration-school-grads-deregulating-public-space-to-establish-a-marketable-brand-identity incarnation — has far more cultural currency than the exhausted and exhausting stock rotation of the art fashion industry. I'm just sayin'.
The only thing Deitch and MOCA have to offer Street Art is that other kind of currency — the regular kind; the kind you need in order to buy spray paint. This has been the real problem and challenge of graffiti as an artform since it first leaked into high art through works by Jean Dubuffet, Helen Levitt, Jacques Villeglé, Antoni Tàpies, and others — more than half a century ago. How do you monetize and control anonymous amateur pictographic trespassing and acknowledge its potency as visual language, without undermining the proprietary fiscal monopoly of the professional art world?
Read the rest of Don't Believe the Hype here
Images: top & bottom; Street Market by Todd James, Barry McGee, and Stephen Powers (aka REAS, TWIST, and ESPO); middle: 1992: Freight Trains
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
“We want to call it ‘Perform! Not!’,” says Small Form Space spokesman Lee Lynch “and instead of new genres grad students, fill Chinatown with civil war re-enactors, LARPers [that’s Live Action Role Players – I had to ask too], and those superheroes and muppets that panhandle on Hollywood Blvd.”
Image: Chinatown Beautification Project guerrilla modifications to the Chinatown West Plaza Koi Pond/Wishing Well, Chung King RD, Los Angeles, Ca on March 3rd 2011
Not sure what else got edited out, or how it ended up in the Newspaper of Record (thought I was writing for the International Herald Tribuene) but you heard it here first: Chinatown Lives!