One of the things the Art in the Streets exhibit accomplished was to show that artwork of the same mediums and styles produced for viewing in the streets can be produced in the studio and appreciated in a gallery setting as fine art.
The Art in the Streets exhibit has revitalized the debate about the merits of graffiti and other forms of street art, and apparently inspired Los Angeles street artists and would-be street artists to increase their output in the downtown area this year, to the disdain of city officials and some residents. Nevertheless, the public certainly responded favorably to the Art in the Streets exhibition which closed on August 8 and broke MOCA’s attendance record, previously held by a 2002 Andy Warhol retrospective.
Even being a graphic designer and casual street art appreciator, I’m often offended by choices of location that street artists make when producing their work. With uncommissioned street art there is an inherent lack of respect for public property, though the dynamics created by a scenario of criminality being involved is of course a big part of the allure of doing it. The creativity and the rebellious action of uncommissioned street art cannot be separated.
I believe there is a case to be made that uncommissioned street art, while being destructive, and offensive to many, can also add positively to the character of a city—in visual form and in generating important public conversations about politics, free speech, foreign policy, copyright laws and other topics, as evidenced by the reaction to the work of street artists Shepard Fairey and Banksy.
As for the artwork itself—when it is of high quality, whether spray painted on a building or a huge canvas hanging in a gallery, the exuberance and bravado of the street art form I find appealing, accessible and even inspirational.
After viewing the Art in the Streets exhibit, I pulled out my brushes and oil paints from storage and began work on my first abstract painting since graduating San Jose State University nearly twenty years ago. I think that speaks volumes about the positive impacts of the street art form.