The hot exhibition to see these days in LA is “Art in the Streets” at MOCA/Geffen Contemporary. Much has been said about this exhibit that starts with the first metro graffiti that appeared in New York in the early ’70s and crosses the country to depict both the origins of the Chicano movements and the contributions of the skating community. Most notably, its detractors opposed what they see as the legitimization of wall degradation now displayed as art. If people still go to jail for scribbling on public walls, why on earth are we calling them artists and charging 10$ to view their graffiti?
Be as it may, the exhibition is a sensory feast. And a lot of fun. We are so used to take a metro or drive on a freeway or walk along the street and seeing the big fat letters that have been spray painted on many available surfaces but we never stop to actually watch. The truth is that a lot of that work is extremely detailed, painstakingly recreating the gritty reality of urban or gang life. And some of it is extremely beautiful.
Spanning the continent, from New York to LA to Sao Paolo, Brazil, “Art in the Street” embraces different movements – NY and LA gangs, Latino art, skateboarder dudes, favelas – that, in common, have life lived in the streets. Among the urban degradation, the lack of work and recreational spaces, pockets of self-expression emerge. The Bansky piece (the never seen British artist whose artwork has reached global fame) is, from a distance, the reproduction of an oversize stained glass cathedral window – only, on closer inspection, the stained glass is made up of colorful graffiti contributed by the students of a LA high school.
The 40,000 square feet of the Geffen contemporary space were crawling with teenagers and school groups on what would otherwise have been a forlorn museum Monday morning. That the exhibition would draw a younger crowd was easy to predict – that this same crowd will make the leap to different types of art, is less of a of a given. But everybody was having a good time and many were surely connecting with what was on display. Which, at the end of the day, is what good art should be about.
“Art in the Streets” – on view at MOCA/Geffen Contemporary until August 8, 2011
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