A Preview of MOCA’s ‘Art in the Streets’ Exhibit
Not everyone in Los Angeles is headed to Coachella this weekend. Last night in West Hollywood, MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch, Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quiñones, and Shepard Fairey held court at Soho House to give members and art fans a sneak peek at a buzzy new exhibition, “Art in the Streets.”
The show purports to be “the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art,” and from the preview last night, it looks like a winner, especially when you consider the rise of street art in mainstream culture (special thanks to the one, the only Banksy). “Growing up in New York, I would visit the Met and the Whitney, and I just got comfortable at an early age going to museums,” said Freddy. The former graffiti artist/rapper and onetime host of Yo! MTV Raps is painting again, and he seemed more than comfortable talking about his role in bridging the gap between art and hip-hop, and placing it all in a historical context. “I did an homage to Warhol on subway trains to let people know that we knew about art,” he said of one of his most well-known graffiti works from 1980. “It was all linked,” he continued. “It was all one culture.”
Pictures of Freddy and other notable street artists from New York will be displayed at the exhibit, which was curated by Deitch and associate curators Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose. In addition to photographs of notable graffiti works from the 1980s, the exhibit will host mixed media sculptures and interactive installations by 50 or so artists, including JR, Os Gêmeos, and Chaz. Naturally, this being MOCA, New York won’t get all the glory — LA’s role in the evolution of graffiti and street art will get love via Shepard Fairey’s work, as well as special sections dedicated to cholo graffiti and Venice skateboard culture.
Enough time has elapsed for the art world to take a serious look at the real roots of graffiti culture, invoking names that anyone who lived in New York knew intimately in the 1980s—even if they didn’t recognize it as “art” at the time. “Freddy and Shepard have been able to move art into the broader culture, and not just for the elite art critics,” said Deitch. For Freddy, the part of the exhibit he seemed most excited about is a special section of “Art In The Streets” that will be dedicated to recreating New York’s famed Fun Gallery, which connected New York graffiti artists with the downtown art community in the early 1980s.
“We had so many great shows at that gallery,” he said Tuesday of Fun (MOCA will also be showing Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and other artists who showed at Fun). “Art In The Streets” opens Saturday to MOCA members and Sunday to the public. The show runs through August 8th.