Beyond the Streets – a familiar sequel

Roger Gastman, curator and de facto historian of street art, came back with another huge production surveying the past and present of graffiti and street art called Beyond the Streets. For those that don’t know, Gastman’s lengthy CV include curating the monumental Art in the Streets (ahem, sound familiar?) exhibition at MOCA with Jeffrey Deitch and producing Banksy’s widely acclaimed mockumentary Exit through the Gift Shop.

Beyond the Streets should have been a home run, and I’m sure it brought in a lot of attendance and ticket sales. It took a proven formula from Art in the Streets and Exit through the Gift Shop by bringing in commercially successfully street artists from LA and New York and sprinkled in a bit of international fame from the likes of Banksy and Invader, and voila, you got an edgy urban art show fit for the LA Instagram models and hypebeasts.

Although there were brief references to the early figures of graffiti, such as Kenny Scharf, Futura 2000, and Chaz Bojorquez, heavy focus was on contemporary street art. Even Takashi Murakami and cohorts’ homage to graffiti makes an appearance, which I was confused about. If an artist uses spray paint does that make him a street artist? Murakami still brings crowds though. In that regard, Beyond the Street knew how to tap into the current zeitgeist of street art/urban art/neo contemporary urban/whatever kids are calling it these days. You can’t say zeitgeist without saying Banksy and Basquiat in the same sentence, so, of course, there was Banksy’s homage to Basquiat on display taking up a whole wall.

I probably sound bitter, because I think the show could have been so much more. It should have built on the success of street art as a respectable art genre, but this felt like a quick cash grab. The show had bit of flavor from anyone that’s a who’s who of street art, which is cool, but Gastman should have used the chance to highlight more up and coming artists. I didn’t come out of the show feeling like I learned something new or that street art had evolved since the seminal museum show at MOCA in 2011. That was almost a decade ago! Rather than pushing boundaries, the show was pandering and populist, produced to provide picturesque backdrops for that #doitforthegram. Art in the Streets was groundbreaking because it was the first time street art was being recognized as a genre that could stand toe to toe with blue chip contemporary art. This show tried the same formula but fell short in its ambition and scope.

Having said all that, I’m not mad at it. For a few bucks, street art aficionados of Los Angeles got to see all the heavy hitters of the genre in one place. There’s value in that.

The show came to an end this past weekend, so you can’t go see it anymore but below are some highlights from when I visited back in July. Enjoy!

– Los Angeles, CA

Barry McGee: SB Mid Summer Intensive @ MCASB

On July 1st, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara opened a new solo exhibition from Barry McGee for the summer. I have to say Barry’s shows never disappoint. This specific installation by the San Francisco artist fills the entire museum which is basically one large room and it’s a sensory overload of paintings, sculptures, photos, and personal ephemera of the artist. The attention to detail in each work and the seeming chaos of how the individual works are paired together create new experiences with each run through the floor.

As they say, a picture says a thousand words, so I’ll shut up now and put up my pictures.  Enjoy!

The show closes on October 14th, so if you’re in the area, it’s a must-see.

– Santa Barbara, CA

Awol Erizku & Isabel Yellin @ Night Gallery

Hidden away amongst old industrial complexes in the outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles, there is a cool little space called Night Gallery (@nightgallery) that is currently exhibiting two up-and-coming artists, Awol Erizku and Isabel Yellin. If you drive past a strip club on Washington Blvd, then drive through the small alley behind it, you’ll arrive at the gallery through a small opening in the parking lot fence. Yes, it sounds sketchy. Yes, it’s safe.

In my day job I work in one of those industrial factories in the area, but even I would have never guessed a bona fide art gallery existed around here. LA is so confusing sometimes.

Awol Erizku

Erizku (@awolerizku), a Los Angeles-based artist, primarily gained his notoriety as a photographer, many of his subjects being young and famous rappers and artists themselves. Although he disdains being known as the “Beyonce portrait photographer”, his fame catapulted earlier this year when Beyonce posted a photo on Instagram of her pregnant self in front of a large ring of flowers, announcing that she is expecting twins. That photo quickly became the most liked picture on Instagram EVER within a few hours.

In his latest show with Night Gallery titled Menace II Society, Erizku explores police brutality (#fucktwelve), race identity, and female empowerment through the lens of popular culture. I’m always drawn to the in-your-face, pop culture driven, subversive visual art, so Erizku fits the bill perfectly.

Isabel Yellin

Inhuman, uncomfortable, confusing, sensual, and sexual. Those are the words that entered my mind when looking at this amorphous body of works by Isabel Yellin (@isayell) exhibiting alongside Erizku in the same space. Titled It’ll Come, the shapes and materials used in these sculptures inform the range of emotions that viewers experience.

For example, the black, shiny latex material evoke images of a violent sexual act, while the conjoined pale-fleshed figures on the wall confound yet bring forth warmth, like two sisters holding hands and walking down the street.

Overall, it’s a weird experience standing between the figures, but I found myself coming back to look at them several times. I’m sure you’ve all experienced not being able to look away after playing those pimple popping videos on YouTube. It’s gross and fascinating at the same damn time!

The two shows run until October 7.

Night gallery is located at 2276 E Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90021.

– Los Angeles, CA

Hello My Game Is – Part Deux

We had a post last March about Invader’s (@invaderwashere) museum show at Le Musee en Herbe through friends of the blog, but last month we got a chance to visit the beautiful city of Paris for the full experience ourselves. Even better, while exploring the city, we ran into dozens of invasions by the maestro to see what an ambitious endeavor the artist is carrying out around the world, but especially in his hometown of Paris. Please enjoy the photos and our thoughts on the show.

Space Invader may be the only street artist in the world that could exhibit in a children’s museum while still maintaining his street cred and not feel out of place. His whole artistic manifesto seems to be an invitation to embrace our nostalgia and never stop exploring. I knew that Paris was ground zero for Invader’s tiled invasions, and so I could not help but to keep my eyes open and high up to make sure I didn’t miss any. Instead of being on my phone (unless I was playing Flash Invaders!!!) or looking in a travel guide to see where to go next, we wandered the city on foot and followed people into small alleys and large plazas looking for the next invasion waiting for us around the corner. This newest show by Invader called Hello My Game Is… is no different in its mindset.

The show is for children as much as it is for adults. For children, it is full of wonderment and cartoon characters transformed into forms that are not quite right but still very familiar. It’s simply fun and accessible. It’s art without the pretense. For adults, it is a chance to share with our children the superheroes and characters that we idolized and what they meant for us when we were their age. For those without children yet, it’s a chance to be a kid again, kneeled on the floor putting coins into an arcade game machine to play Pong and Pac-Man.

You might have to wait a while to find your game open up.

Le Musee En Herbe is a children’s museum made up of 4 small rooms. When I did my first walkthrough I was disappointed that it was so small and that there were not as many Invaders on the walls as I had hoped, but I actually ended up spending 3 hours in it exploring every piece in the show. It’s an intimate setting and it worked better this way. I’m sure that’s exactly how Invader intended it to be.

The show is also super interactive. In the first room, there are 5 old-school arcade game machines from Pong and Pac-Man to Tetris. The games are free to play and almost always occupied by someone. The nostalgia I felt as I squatted down to play the games was overwhelming, but I didn’t remember it being so uncomfortable kneeling in front of an arcade game. I guess I’ve grown a few inches since elementary school. In the second room, there is a control station with many buttons and as you push on each, the large projection screen will display a corresponding image of a past invasion around the world and also light up a red dot next to a replica of it displayed on the wall. In the last room there is a large section on a wall where you can create your own tiled invasions using colored magnets. Kids really got into it here making Minions and other weird creatures.

This is the control station where you can see many invasions from around the world and replicas of the invasions are displayed on the walls.

Invader’s message to attendees of the show is simple. “Have fun, stay for as long as you want, but while you’re here forget about anything else.” The fact that a street artist of such notoriety was invited to show at a children’s museum in Paris is a sign of how far along the genre has come. Being prominently featured in Banksy’s mockumentary Exit Through the Gift Shop probably didn’t hurt either. Regardless, this is a street artist that is breaking laws everywhere he goes putting up his works on walls that do not belong to him. With this show, Invader transcended street art and is clearly blazing his own path.

If you visit the show in person, don’t forget to pick up some stickers from the vending machine! You never know what you’ll get.

The show runs until September 3rd.

– Paris, France

Kerry James Marshall – “Mastry” @ MOCA

Although Kerry James Marshall’s Los Angeles leg of the touring retrospective came to an end on July 3rd, I’ve put my highlights from the show above. There are far more knowledgeable people on the artist and his history to explain the show to you guys than me, so below are links to check out. And I’m a bit lazy to write today…

LA Times article details the background on Marshall and his exhibition of 80 paintings: For Kerry James Marshall, the mission is clear: Bring portraits of black life into very white art museums

MOCA Curator Helen Molesworth shares her insights on the retrospective during a walkthrough of the gallery [46:39]: Helen Molesworth on Kerry James Marshall: Mastry

And lastly, the official press release from MOCA on the opening of the exhibition, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry.

– Los Angeles, CA

Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects Celebrates Turning Twenty-One

Subliminal Projects, Shepard Fairey’s (@obeygiant) skateboard-company-turned-fine-art-gallery celebrated its 21st birthday last night in Echo Park. Artists that supported the gallery over the years filled the white walls with their works, free beers and ciders were flowing, and DJ bounced music off the halls. It looked like several of the pieces were from Shepard’s personal collection, like the Space Invader “Andre the Giant has a Posse” homage. Even Best Damn Art Blog added another Mark Drew piece to the collection. Pretty cool show.

Some of the artists displayed at the show included Shepard Fairey, obviously, Tristan Eaton (@tristaneaton), Invader (@invaderwashere), Albert Reyes, Mark Drew (@markchronic), Barry McGee, Dabs Myla (@dabsmyla), Jim Houser (@jimhouser), and Skullphone (@skullphone), among many, many others.

The show “Twenty-One” runs through July 15, 2017 at Subliminal Projects on 1331 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA, 90026.

“Young World (Slick Rick)” is a part of the BDAB collection!
Barry McGee, aka Twist

– Los Angeles, CA

Another Visit to The Broad Museum – Creature

Since the museum opened in late 2015, the Broad has been regularly putting on new exhibitions and quietly rotating works on the 3rd floor walls, which contain a part of the permanent Broad Collection. Currently, an installation titled Creature is on view on the 1st floor galleries. The works presented in the show are directly from the museum’s collection, but loosely center around a theme of man and animal as physical amalgamations of fear, sex, vanity, and experiences. The theme is vague enough that the curators of the show probably a lot of fun picking out their favorite pieces for the show. Broad favorites like Takashi Murakami (@takashipom), Damien Hirst, and George Condo are well represented.

The installation is on view until Sunday, March 19th, at the Broad Museum.

– Los Angeles, CA