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Name: Adam Bernard
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Review - Art In The Streets at MOCA Los Angeles
Monday, June 20, 2011

When my buddy Jus Rhyme told me the Art In The Streets exhibit would be running during my short trip to LA I was instantly down to go. As soon as my plane landed he scooped me up and we hit The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Museum Of Contemporary Art). Now, having grown up in the NYC area I’ve seen my fair share of street art, and I recently wrote about a graffiti inspired art show that went on in Bridgeport, CT, but I was totally unprepared for the vastness of Art In The Streets.

To truly take everything in would take at least an entire day. There is simply so much there, and it’s all exhibited in really unique ways. The installations are incredible, at times utilizing high walls and tight hallways to create the feel of a crowded city. There’s even a bum by the side of the road at one point. In addition to the areas that are dedicated to individual artists, which include the likes of Shepard Fairey (who, in a bit of poetic symmetry, I would share a flight back to New York with) and Banksy (who, for all I know, could have been on that flight, too, but no one knows what he looks like), there’s a timeline of street art that starts in the 70s and makes its way to the present. The timeline is something that I feel everyone should take a look at, because seeing what many might consider vandalization growing into the Obama “Hope” campaign image is a powerful thing and exemplifies why street art is important.

The artwork featured at Art In The Streets ranges from what most would consider traditional graffiti, to an entire ice cream truck done by Mr. Cartoon, to some truly wild black light work in areas that look like dorm rooms on acid. Then, of course, there’s Banksy, who defies any sort of categorization.

Some have noted that the exhibit only focuses on certain major cities, and while that’s true, the fact that it takes quite a bit of time to take it all in shows that it would have been difficult to include any more. MOCA also did a good job of digging deep into the street art of the cities they included. Seeing the wall of New York City subway cars from the 80s was awesome, especially because it gave me, the New York guy, an opportunity to talk a little NY graffiti history with my LA friend, who then shared stories of LA graffiti history.

Overall, this exhibit is an amazing way to bring street art to the masses. It showcases how street art has grown, and the kind of artwork that is being done now that has been directly influenced by graffiti. It’s not all about cans of Krylon and Rustoleum anymore, although there are still plenty of artists who are doing great work with the original tools.

Street art can be political, street art can be colorful, street art can be thought provoking. Street art can be a lot of things, and all of the things it can be are on display at The Geffen. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to spend there.

Related Links

MOCA Website: moca.org
Art In The Streets Blog: moca.org/audio/blog/?cat=84
Photo Gallery: moca.org/audio/blog/?p=1883

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