I’m working up my opinion on the exhibit, Playing Field, that Scott and I saw Saturday night at the Carmichael Gallery in Culver City. Scott doesn’t love going to galleries so he was pretty clear in his opinion of the exhibit. He took the photo below when we stopped at Famima on the way home and declared it the best part of the night because it made him laugh.
Playing Field features the work of Sheppard Fairey, Banksy, Swoon and other street artists. I’m not an expert on street art, but I’m curious. I saw part of the excellent film, Exit Through The Giftshop. I know a little about Sheppard Fairey whose fame and notoriety includes creating the iconic Obama Hope campaign poster, possibly appropriating images from other artists illegally and designing the Obey stickers we’ve all seen around LA.
The exhibit at the Carmichael Gallery coincides with Art in the Streets at MOCA that opened in April and runs through August 8th. Locally we’ve also been treated to Graffiti Crossword by Eine, who’s work is part of the MOCA exhibit. The puzzle covers the building where the LA Weekly is housed.
The work of artists like Fairey, Banksy and Eine seems to be coming inside and into the mainstream. As the title of the exhibit at the Carmichael Gallery suggests, the playing field for street artists is changing.
And this brings me to the crux of what I’m sorting out. How does the work of street artists change when placed inside an art gallery, museum or book? The provocative, irreverent, subversive impact of street art has to change when framed. For one thing, it gets more expensive. Some of Banksy’s work has been sold on the wall where he created it. It was up to the buyer to figure out how to get it home.
The issue of permanence comes into play as well. When asked how long he hopes Graffiti Crossword will stay, Eine had this to say:
It’s weird, kind of everything I ever paint has been painted over, so I’ve definitely seen it for the last time! I’m not precious about my artwork. If some other graffiti artist comes by and they’re looking for something to paint, I wouldn’t care. I’ve got my photo. That’s what lives forever.
To further the debate (at least in my mind) is this quote by Banksy:
As far as I can tell the only thing worth looking at in most museums of art is all the schoolgirls on daytrips with the art departments.
The trip to the Carmichael Gallery yielded a small view into street artists and their influence on popular culture and the art world. Stop by and you’ll see some familiar images, but you’ll also see pieces like Pensador by Titi Freak and Myrtle Avenue by Swoon. These pieces bring in portraits of people and scenes we see daily. They stand in contrast with the graphic prints and images that usually constitute street art.
The next stop on my street art primer will be to see the MOCA exhibit. Sometime next week, Heroes & Villains, a book that features photographs of many street artists should arrive in my mailbox. My friend Tatiana Wills and co-photographer Roman Cho have been at work on this project since 2005. Everything seems to be dovetailing nicely.
The Carmichael Gallery is at 5795 Washington Boulevard in Culver City. They are open from Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 6. Playing Field runs until July 9th. www.carmichaelgallery.com
Graffiti Crossword can be seen at 3861 Sepulveda Boulevard, Culver City.
Art in the Streets at MOCA runs until August 8th. The address is 152 N. Central Ave in downtown LA. Admission to the museum is free on Mondays for this exhibit courtesy of Banksy. www.moca.org