Beyond the Streets– a traveling exhibit of contemporary street art (graffiti) currently on view in a warehouse in LA’s Chinatown – has been extended to run through August 26, 2018. It’s a must-see for this summer – so here’s what you need to know to visit:
- You’ll need a timed entry ticket: Visitors (even kids) are required to have a $25 ticket for entrance. Click here (but check on Gold Star for discounts).
2. It’s a learning experience: You’ll see only a few works from “famous” artists, but can learn about a lot of other, lesser-known artists. This mural by RETNA is at the entrance.
The exhibit brings together over 100 artists from around the globe, some renowned artist from the past (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Jenny Holzer) and many more contemporary artists, including many from LA. With over 40,000 feet of gallery space, you’ll find lots to discover.
3. Shepard Fairey gets his due: The show’s organizer, Roger Gastmann, is a partner with Fairey in other ventures, so you’ll get some good background on the career and methodology of the famous LA artist.
4. It’s cool for kids to realize Graffiti was once taboo: Many visitors had kids alongside – which is fine, although there’s some imagery that might be too much. In a small side-gallery, there is a wall statue of someone giving the finger. Kids will enjoy understanding the risks taken by early graffiti artists of the 1970s and 1980s. It’s almost quant to see these old signs that encouraged citizens NOT to mark up their city.
Now, street art stars like Banksy take pride in planting surprise messages up in unexpected places. But for years, the artists could be arrested for painting public spaces. One area of the show is dedicated to the legal shenanigans involved with suing someone for defacing a NYC bridge, and discussing these dangers helps kids to understand the impetus and need of the artists to make their mark.
5. It’s a vast, meandering show and the lighting isn’t great: Frankly, getting a quality image of the art is sometimes tricky because it’s a temporary show in a vast warehouse. Nonetheless, the graphics are alive and colorful, and the interplay of styles and messages is potent. You’ll want to take photos to remember all that is on display.
Here is a photo of the infamous “LA” insignia, represented here in an older photo by Estevan Oriol and then as inspiration for a Japanese influenced sculpture by Gajin Fujita.
6. The Guerrilla Girls are alive and well: I was glad to see work from the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous feminist collective who brought attention to the lack of women represented in galleries and museums. Their work, potent in the 1980s, echos in today’s movement to bring women and people of color in the workplace. Twenty-plus years later.
The Guerrilla Girls used humor effectively, and are still active today, though they remain anonymous and wear masks when doing public appearances or actions.
7. You’ll want to know more about Martha Cooper: Cooper, who is now in her mid-70s, is arguably the best street art photographer, having chronicled the work of the early artists in the 1970s and 1980s. Her work captures an energy of protest and excitement and is iconic for its edgy depiction of this emergent art form. Below is her image of artist Dondi, which she said “is the image that made graffiti cool” – here is a link to learn more about her work. She and filmmaker/ethnographer Henry Chalfant, did the best-selling book Subway Art.
8. You’ll leave over-stuffed, but wanting more: You can’t absorb everything – there is so much content in the show, and there’s only so much to be known and understood about such a dynamic and shifting culture. But that’s the point. You can go back and watch Henry Chalfant’s documentary StyleWars1982; you can check out Exit Through the Gift Shop about Banksy from 2010. And Gastmann’s documentary Wall Writers – but that just covers the form through 1973. Here is Gastmann’s website, where you can also learn about his book “The History of American Graffiti”.
This article from LA Mag offers some great history, as well. Enjoy!
My favorite discovery? The use of neon and simple Jenny Holtzer-like messaging is the basis for work by LA artist Patrick Martinez – learn more about him here.
I left the show to explore another part of DTLA, and was amused to find this pithy “street art” stenciled on a street corner.
Beyond the Streets – 1667 North Main Street, Chinatown – through August 26, 2018