Once the word was out that newly appointed L.A. MOCA curator, Jeffrey Deitch, was constructing a show about the history of graffiti the cannons were set loose for an exhibition that would change the scene forever. In the run of it all Deitch has entered himself in the graffiti game as one of the most infamous curators, and buffers by removing Blu’s commissioned mural, and then going over KATSU’s last minute fire extinguisher tag. In all respects, if it wasn’t for Deitch who hired the two co-curators, Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose, whom all together assembled one of the most talked about, reviewed, and critically important shows of the year.
Roger Gastman has been in the graffiti circuit since its birth, published over a dozen books including Freight Train Graffiti, Supreme Quality, and many more. Aaron Rose is the man highly responsible for the acclaimed Beautiful Losers and has brought together artists such as Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, and Stephen Powers. Before Deitch was appointed curator, he ran the ever so popular Deitch Projects on the infamous Wooster St., New York City.
When entering the building you are immediately overwhelmed and feel as if your eyes are about to pop like balloons. Skate ramps paying homage to the L.A. dog town days, street markets by SF’s greatest, massive installations by ROA, Swoon, RETNA, and Rammellzee, and the impressive mural by LEE Quiones with Blade, Futura, FAB 5 Freddy, Lady Pink and the rest of the NYC Wild Style crew. Walking through a lot of the big names were there, but not all of them. The originator of the stencil as accredited by Banksy, Blek Le Rat was not on the bill. Lack of representation persisted by excluding the Fashion Moda gallery, one of New York’s most influential galleries during the late 70’s and early 80’s, which is highly responsible for the success of artists such as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Crash, Daze, and many others.
One of the most impressive installations was done by Los Angeles’ own Mister Cartoon with a shimmering cherry red ice cream truck pimped out with hydraulics and bordered with candy. Considering the impressiveness of this installation, and the amount of money that put into making it (supposedly over 1 mill), it was the man going into the ice cream truck, pressing the button to make the hydraulics work that made me realize there’s no possible way the street aspect that we all love and admire about graffiti and street art can be captured in a museum or gallery. “The Street Market” installation by Todd James, Barry McGee and Stephen Powers was also one of the most talked about and impressive pieces in the show. Mechanical arms coming from trees tagging sides of buildings, and models of real life shops all made one feel as if they were experiencing the thrill of the city. The timeline section of the exhibition was informative and completely necessary for viewers. Without this section, the average viewer would have been completely lost.
The show was impressive, but obvious. Once I knew that Deitch, Gastman, and Rose were putting on the show it was simple to guess the who, what, and why. There was sufficient representation of different genres and countries. Of course there were some missing, but with a show this size it is impossible to include it all. Only someone in the art world can understand and recognize what the show lacked, but that’s not the point. To an average viewer, just by walking into the L.A. MOCA they are being exposed to graffiti and street art like they have never before, inside a museum. Art In The Streets shows people and forces them to look at street art and graffiti as if it were a Picasso or a Monet. It is up to the viewer if it is as important or impressive, but the act of it being there in physical form for the masses to view, should say and be enough.
-Written by Warholian Special Correspondent Tova Lobatz
(Tova Lobatz is also a regular contributor to VNA)
To see Art in the Streets visit MOCA’s official website here: http://www.moca.org/
-Photos by Michael Cuffe of Warholian