01 June 2011


... "Art in the Streets," a controversial exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The show has been drawing the ire of social critics, alarmed by what they perceive as an institutional celebration of vandalism, all while drawing curious crowds (often young) to the museum's Little

urban graffiti doesn't drag down neighborhoods, but instead erupts in areas already largely abandoned by civic forces. Graffiti scrawls a name on hitherto faceless social realities, instantly becoming a convenient target for blame.

Yes, graffiti is vandalism ... But what has that to do with MOCA? As critic William Poundstone pointedly asked, how many museum shows of El Greco are required to take a position on the Spanish Inquisition?

Still, MOCA's claim for the magnitude of graffiti's post-Pop influence on art is overblown. "Art in the Streets" cites global reach ... Since the 1970s, however, the deepest impact on art culture has come from Conceptual art, not graffiti.

One could even say that graffiti owes its 1980s emergence into art world consciousness to the success of Conceptual art's frontal assault on formalist Modernism, with its crabbed notion that, say, a painting's highest purpose is to define what a painting is. With an emphasis on words, some Conceptual art even opened the door to thinking of tagging as an artistic strategy.

So the biggest disappointment of "Art in the Streets" is its misunderstanding of history. ... Consider what doesn't appear in the show — not even in the catalog chronology or the gallery's information timeline.

Mostly MOCA tells a mythic tale in which graffiti, an Expressionist art form, is largely born in Manhattan, spreads across the country and finally envelopes the world. If the story sounds familiar, that's because it replays New York School legend, long since discredited, about Abstract Expressionist painting in the 1940s.

MOCA's stylish exhibition mostly extends a legacy of commercial influence, which is the wrong way for an art museum to frame a show."

full article LA Times

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