On April 17, MOCA LA’s Art in the Streets exhibition opens. The show, which was organized in roughly a year or since Deitch became director of the institution, promises to be a major exploration of street art, graffiti and skateboard culture at one of the country’s most important contemporary art institutions. Today, I spoke to one of the exhibition’s curators, Roger Gastman about his important new book, The History of American Graffiti, which he co-authored with Caleb Neelon, and the MOCA show.
In what may be the most original tactic by a city to deter street artists and graffiti writers from using public space as free advertising, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is seeking a court injunction to bar street artist Cristian Gheorghiu from profiting from art bearing his telltale “tag.”
Last night’s opening of art by the LA graffiti artist Retna was more of a fashion event than an art show. Bizarrely titled The Hallelujah World Tour, the artist’s all-over calligraphic style was ill served by poor curatorial decisions like a dense hanging that reduced the lines to visual wallpaper for a posing group filled with mad-hatter-wannabes and fashionistas.
Amman, Jordan — The decision to leave Egypt wasn’t easy on me, but I was out of options. Feeling alone, broke, beaten up, and lonely in a country I can’t predict anymore made me feel uncertain about the future. This revolution has been a life-altering event to each one of the people witnessing it, and I’m no exception.
Cairo — I won’t lie to you. I was scared yesterday. I got in a fight with a group of passersby in one of the poorest neighborhood in Cairo. The people thought I was reporting for Al-Jazeera, the Qatari-based news channel that has been the target of major government propaganda over the last few days. People were pulling me from my clothes, hitting me on my back and dragging me to the floor until I was saved by a reasonable police officer who pretended to arrest me and my friends to calm the crowds.
Cairo — As I write this story, I am in my room overlooking the main square of Cairo, ironically called Tahrir Square, which means Liberty in Arabic. The square is buzzing with what news agencies estimate is as much as half a million protesters, chanting together. People want to overthrow the president.
Egyptian people took to the streets demanding the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, their president for the last 30 years. The demonstrations, which started five days ago, are becoming life-altering events to those witnessing it from the ground.
Alison Young is a lawyer and a professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia, but don’t let that intimidate you. She has also extensively covered the Australian street art world, writing and teaching on the “intersection of law, crime and culture.” In Street|Studio: The Place of Street Art in Melbourne, Young works with street artists Ghostpatrol, Miso (Stanislava Pinchuk) and designer Timba Smits to create a book that documents the culture of street art in Melbourne. From introductory essays to photo spreads to in-depth interviews with artists about their work and the role of street art, Street|Studio covers everything you’d want to know about a city’s scene in a way that few other street art compendiums manage to accomplish. Beyond its excellent good looks, this is a surprisingly informative volume.
Last Wednesday the Lesley Heller Workspace in the Lower East Side, opened The Bushwick Paintings, a new group of work by Deborah Brown. The gallery was packed, teeming with people and vibrant paintings.
Brown has been painting urbanscapes for quite some time. Fascinated by the world in which we live our everyday lives, she points out the poetic beauty of the ordinary; antennas, sneakers hanging on overhead wires, lamp posts, and fences are no longer invisible elements of the city, but the main characters in her scenes.
Setting a time and a place for the birth of street or urban art is always a tricky question, as one could argue that its history is as old as humanity. Besides, it’s not that easy to find documentation about the development of street art and graffiti before the 1980s because of the way technology has transformed the way we study the past. Any episode before the advent of the internet or digital cameras isn’t as easy to track down, particularly in regards to underground scenes. Sure there’s the library but only academics, writers, and intellectuals tend to venture into the hallowed halls of learning to spend a whole day (or days) researching. Here are some precedents you may not know about.
Walking or driving around Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, you’re immediately struck by the great volume of art all around, most noticeably on the wall. Some of the work is illegal but others are sanctioned through the efforts of Primary Flight, an organization which descibes itself as “Miami’s original open air museum and street level mural installation that takes place annually throughout the Wynwood Arts District and the Miami Design District.”
One gallerist told me that one “host” of a Primary Flight mural from last year loves his so much he was talking about graffiti coating it to ensure it longevity. What was remarkable about these murals, many of which were from last year, is that they look pretty much as good as the first day they were painted. Why?
MY BOGUS ‘GRAFFITI’ CASE, IN WHICH I WAS ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED FOR 23 HOURS FOR PAINTING ON MY OWN WATERCOLOR PAPER- WAS DISMISSED TODAY!!
You will probably remember the wrongful arrest of watercolor artist Julie Torres on a ridiculous charge of graffiti. We last reported on her court appearance last month, but now this great news. Congratulations, Julie!
Underneath Las Vegas are 200 miles of flood tunnels that are also home to 1,000 people and an art gallery. According to the Daily Mail, “… the destitute and hopeless have constructed a community beneath the city and have even dedicated one section of tunnels to an art gallery filled with intricate graffiti.” [Daily Mail]