New exhibit demands our attention.
The debate is raging in Los Angeles right now, where the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporay Art has launched a comprehensive, controversial exhibition called “Art In The Streets,” which will remain open through August 8th. That should give you plenty of time to judge for yourself on how the exhibit – showcasing 50 world-famous graffiti artists’ life work – should be defined, or positioned in art history. Check out this small sampling, and then get downtown.
An authentic urban voice
Personally, I find this kind of raw visual expression packed with high energy and substance. It reminds me that so much great art comes from unexpected places. Our culture would never be as diverse or as rich if it were not for the countless new voices from the inner city — showcasing themselves through rap, poetry and dance. MOCA’s street art show, much like rap, allows for those authentic voices to be heard in a public forum.
However — Saying the MOCA show “glorifies graffiti,” the L.A.P.D. and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department both report that instances of vandalism are up in the surrounding area, Little Tokyo.
But MOCA Director, Jeffrey Deitch says the LAPD is overreacting and that the “anarchy” displayed by the street art subculture was to be expected. He also reminds street art critics that MOCA is cleaning up after the renegade artists.
Censorship or Sensitivity?
In the meantime, Deitch has done some “cleaning up” of his own. The former NY art dealer ordered a $13,000 museum-commissioned mural by Italian street artist “Blu” white-washed off the side of his own building.
The anti-war image (seen at right) pictures a line of coffins covered in dollar bills. Critics call the white-wash “censorship.” Deitch calls it being sensitive to the neighborhood, home to a Veterans’ hospital and a war memorial to Japanese-American soldiers. The work, therefore, was considered “inappropriate.” And it’s gone.
The irony is obvious. As the L.A.Times points out—Street art is inherently “fugitive by nature, and vulnerable to being destroyed by angry shopkeepers who just don’t appreciate the creativity.” But here, the same museum that commissioned the radical work — also wiped it out. Apparently, Deitch had not asked to see a sketch.
Now that’s art.