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