Art in the Streets

The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art offers a retrospective of street-art, along with a comprehensive time line that charts the movement's emergence on the subway cars of New York and beyond. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Through Aug. 8

MOCA’s “revolutionary” street-art retrospective got off to a rocky start, said Shelley Leopold in LA Weekly. Months before the show opened, the museum was widely accused of censorship when it commissioned—and then quickly whitewashed—a street mural that briefly covered an entire wall of its Geffen Contemporary building in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch had decided that an image of giant coffins draped with dollar bills was too controversial of a teaser—even for a show about an outlaw art form. Thankfully, Deitch’s missteps ended there, and the resulting show is a “groundbreaking” look at an iconoclastic visual movement that “made its way from the subway cars of New York City to the freight yards of South Texas” and many points beyond.

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Visually, the exhibit is a dream, said Sharon Mizota in the Los Angeles Times. “Viewers will encounter a bombastic, near-overwhelming cavalcade of eye candy: colorful swirling murals, immersive installations,” even a custom-designed skate ramp. “But the exhibition’s strong suit is not its impressive array of large-scale work but rather its art historical treatment of an outsider form.” In particular, it’s well worth examining the comprehensive time line upstairs: “It moves briskly from the movement’s beginnings in tagging in New York and Philadelphia in the 1960s, through cholo graffiti in L.A. in the ’70s, and the form’s emergence on the New York gallery scene in the ’80s.” In any case, loitering there beats visiting the exhibit’s re-creation of “a dark, filthy alleyway littered with broken bottles and debris.” Created by the artist Neckface, the installation seems to be an attempt “to shock us by bringing the street into the gallery.” Instead, it comes off as shockingly corny.

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