“Art in the Streets” – LA Style

zebra muralI took a quick jaunt to LA this week; the trip just happened to coincide with the opening of a much ballyhooed exhibit at MOCA – what was to be “a groundbreaking exhibition of street art, the most ambitious show of its kind ever mounted in the United States.” So of course, I went!

My girlfriend and I went to the members-only opening Saturday night amidst a buzz of press and paparazzi – the line for them nearly as long as the line for new members, both of which were dwarfed by the queue for existing members with invitations. As we all waited to get in to the Geffen Contemporary (a 40,000 square foot former police car warehouse in Little Tokyo renovated by the noted California architect Frank O. Gehry, and one of three museums housed under the umbrella of MOCA), the first piece of the exhibit, itself a whirlwind of controversy, loomed large above the crowd.

You can read all about it in the LA Weekly’s “Street Art at MOCA” by Shelley Leopold, but I will summarize… the director of MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch, was tasked with the challenge of boosting new membership to the flailing museum. One idea he had was to showcase the cutting edge world of street art, and to open the show with a bang, he commissioned the Italian muralist Blu to make the entire north wall of the Geffen Contemporary his canvas. Unfortunately, what Blu chose to paint (controversial imagery of coffins draped with money) was deemed inappropriate and was later painted over by Lee Quinones along with “a handpicked contingency of dudes”, producing a native American tribute titled We the People. I actually didn’t even see this mural as it was on the backside of the building.

Lee Quinones, MOCA Street Art, coffins draped with dollars

photo right by LindsayT on Flickr

Instead our introduction to the show was the piece below… a tribute to the innovative graffiti artist BLADE. Here’s an interesting blogpost by the artist commissioned to do the piece… (Blade Tribute at the MOCA).

Jersey Joe Art, Blade Tribute, Freedom sketch for Blade Tribute

The show was quite good, although I definitely had problems with several of the installations that attempted to replicate street environments inside the museum. One in particular was a movie-set-like construction of a back alleyway, dimly lit, strewn with trash, complete with a live character hobo huddling in the corner. I don’t know if this was the actual artist having a bit of fun, or just another out of work LA actor taking any gig he could get, but either way… it was just too damn contrived.

The show comprised over 50 artists’ works over the last few decades (including early visionaries like Jean-Michel Basquiat & Keith Haring to more contemporaries like Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, and even Banksy), and focused on “key cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Sao Paulo, where a unique visual language or attitude has evolved.” You can see a complete list of artists here.

I didn’t take that many pictures because there was so much art to try and take in, it was a little overwhelming, but here are a few…

Geffen Contemporary, Street Art, Los Angeles

Roa rabbit, ROA bird, MOCA street art


stelios, street art, stelios mural


shepard fairey, obey giant, shepard fairey installation moca

Me shooting everyone shooting Shepard Fairey

os gemeos installation, os gemeos street art, os gemeos moca

The Os Gemeos installation was huge and included instruments for the crowd to play - I played the drums! (but not as well as this 10 year old boy)

Os Gemeos at MOCA, Os Gemeos LA installation

Os Gemeos

swoon paper installation, swoon installation moca

Paper installation by Swoon

MOCA Geffen Contemporary, street art exhibit los angelesMOCA los angeles, art in the streets

If you can get down to Los Angeles in the next few months, this show will be up through August 8th.

90 thoughts on ““Art in the Streets” – LA Style

    1. studiodeb333 Post author

      That’s hilarious… Yeah, I have to say that the re-contextualizing of street art into the museum environment didn’t really work for me. I still enjoyed seeing a lot of this work that I would never have been able to see otherwise, but it wasn’t quite the same as seeing it out and about in the world. The juxtaposition of “street art” to the societal environment is kind of what gives it its power, I think.

  1. cultureshockart

    Great post. It’s certainly an overwhelming exhibit, but I thought they did a good job curating it. Agreed on the street recreation. I just think it was awkward space that was more of an afterthought. Didn’t see the bum at the press preview, but we all agreed the street needed a rat!

  2. Sci Fi the News

    The piece with Native Americans is brilliant. You can almost hear the machinery beeping as the enormous jaw lifts them up and out of the way. Their faces look worried, but not terrified. It’s as if this isn’t a new experience for them – unpleasant but familiar.


  3. Maria

    I won’t be able to see it in person so I’m really glad I came upon this blog. Thanks for the great photo essay – unique work and tons of talent shown here.

  4. Pingback: Art in the Streets | The Triumph of Arts and Sciences

  5. Feltics

    The Art was awesome! Its crazy all the reports I keep hearing that the Los Angeles police department has seen a rise in graffiti in the surrounding areas.

    1. Spectra

      I can totally see why…makes me want to hit the hardware store, stash a few cans of neon under my jacket, and get to work….now, who to bless with my pending masterpeice….? Who’s pist me off lately? Which cop wrote me that ticket?? Who didn’t invite me to their party?These are all important considerations when selecting locales for site-specific art installations.

      Does Toilet-Papering the Mayors Office count as Art?

  6. whenquiet

    Very interesting art display! I was able to catch the Basquiat show at the Beyerler Museum in Riehen, Switzerland. Basquiat’s work made me stand still in my tracks. Just what art should do!

  7. Pingback: “Art in the Streets” – LA Style (via Oaktown Art) « A Bit of Everything

  8. Pingback: Bangkok Street Art « archibelly

  9. soaringdragons

    What a great life you lead! Thank you for all the greath photos from someone stuck in China! Cheers!

  10. ashleyturney

    What a cool event! These are needed across the country to help develop the arts. Thanks for bringing it to light.

  11. truthstings

    Hey I’m new here. Loved your post! very entertaining. Check my stuff out if you’ve got time.

  12. streetastrologist

    What up YALL..Stumbled upon this Blog..GREAT PICS..ICR Los Angeles exiled to Santa Cruz update for ya ,,if ya didn’t know…Apparently Last Thursday evening while doing one of his Famous Billboard Re-Works the Artist REVOK was trailed to L.A. X and with what is described as “Tools and tactics used to chase terrorists”..Revok was Arrested for past Resitution violation..The BIGGER STORY IS..His Bail is Set at???
    $320,000…..Think about that..Recently a Man was Arrested for Raping his 2 Daughters and Bail wasn’t near that..in fact ALMOST NO BAIL is Ever that High especially for a?non-Murder Trial..
    TRUE and Be Safe!

  13. Pingback: “Art in the Streets” – LA Style (via Oaktown Art) | Ajitox

  14. Pingback: “Art in the Streets” – LA Style | Travel to Putrajaya

  15. Pingback: Tarragona…. R1.ruta con mucho arte «

  16. Pingback: “Art in the Streets” – LA Style | Travel to Kelantan

  17. charlie nitric

    Good Morning Oaktown –

    Very nice photos. The work of the rabbit and duck hanging upside down in black and white caught my eye. I’ve been to view it a number of times already. Another aspect of this gallery is the scale in which the artwork is….they’re very big display pieces. I do wonder how much more effective, or moving, they might appear in the outside environment. For example, on a playground wall, side of a subway tunnel, or covering a concrete berm. Thanks and have a good Thursday. 🙂

  18. Pingback: “Art in the Streets” – LA Style (via Oaktown Art) « binwangcn

  19. Jae Bueno

    The lead in piece is a tribute piece to New York Graffiti Artist Blade. The “bum” in the street installation is the artist Neckface who created the installation. Great recap of the event, I see myself in one of your photos. I have photos on my site from the Artist’s Reception and the Member’s Preview. http://jaebueno.wordpress.com/

  20. Walter

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Really nice photos and objective view on the show. Something really irked me about the exhibition though, just something not quite right about the whole thing. I can’t get Franks Depression Poetry out of my head. Poor guy. Wait long enough and everything becomes hip.

  21. The Writer

    I’ve been meaning to check out this exhibit for a while. Thanks for the review. Didn’t know about the original mural. A bit ironic that it was painted over, given the spirit of this exhibit, no?

Comments are closed.