January 4, 2011

Street artists hit the (art history) books



Images from the Fundación Caixa Galicia in La Coruña, Spain, exhibition 'Postgraffiti, Geometry, and Abstraction,'

In this month's issue of ArtNews C-Monster reports that the new street artists are taking a more conceptual approach than their spraycan-wielding ancestors, which has attracted the attention of curators at an international level. "In 2008 the Tate Modern featured a number of artists working in this vein in the exhibition 'Street Art.' Last year, the Fundación Caixa Galicia in La Coruña, Spain, organized a citywide exhibition titled 'Postgraffiti, Geometry, and Abstraction,' which featured artists working in an abstract-geometric vernacular. And, this month, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego wraps up a six-month show titled 'Viva La Revolución: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape,' which included work by Akay, a Swedish interventionist who once crafted a small residence in the middle of a road divider.

"Interestingly, the esthetic theories behind some of this art seem almost conventionally academic. (Studio artists like John Baldessari, Joseph Beuys, and many others were doing uncommissioned works in public spaces back in the '60s.) What sets this movement apart is that much of it is inspired by or has evolved out of a graffiti tradition. Most of these artists have at some point taken a can of spray paint and placed words and images on a wall—illegally. Having embraced this gesture, they are now developing it into something new.

"'What these artists draw from graffiti are materials, technique, and attitude—it's very ambitious,' says Cedar Lewisohn, the curator behind the Tate Modern's street-art exhibition and the author of Abstract Graffiti (forthcoming from Merrell in March). 'But the art is coming from a little bit more of an art background. They're making art-historical referential work.'"

"'These kids aren't just trying to 'get up,' says New York art critic Carlo McCormick, who has followed urban guerrilla art since the early '80s. 'There are much deeper roots here that make me think of artists like John Fekner and Gordon Matta-Clark, people who were going at it in ways that were really conceptual and activist.'" Read more.

Note: C-Monster, also known as Carolina Miranda, blogs at C-Monster and WNYC.




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