As I drive up for parking where the Beyond The Streets exhibit has been enamoring countless art seekers in Los Angeles all summer, I see a graffiti artist painting away on a new mural. This isn’t a renegade street kid, but rather likely a commissioned piece from the looks of it, beautifying the side brick wall of a new restaurant or boutique.
We’re in a corner of Chinatown, adjacent to LA State Historic Park on one side and the LA River on the other, that was one of the last to gentrify, but it’s happening rapidly now: David Chang’s restaurant Momofuku moved in across the street, and the New York cocktail bar Apotheke just made its home here as well. The message is clear as I enter the exhibit: the renegades have become the established.
Indeed, graffiti and street art have spiraled into the world’s most recognizable modern art movement, moving from the streets into galleries and collections, but yet, the work that’s been presented here is no less vital than that of its origins. You can take the artist out of the street, but you can’t take the street out of the artist.
Featuring work from over 100 artists, Beyond The Streets was certainly the most stunning collection of street artists that I’ve ever seen. No wonder, given it was curated by Roger Gastman, one of the world’s preeminent street art collectors and experts; he also produced the Mr. Brainwash Life Is Beautiful art show featured in Banksy’s film Exit Through The Gift Shop (on which he was also a consulting producer). Gastman collaborated with MOCA on a similar street art retrospective in 2011, Art in the Streets, but this time he went beyond by providing a canvas for street artists to experiment for a new setting.
The exhibit closed on August 26th, 2018, but we’ve collected a bit of art from the show below so you can take a little trip through Beyond The Streets of your own.
Upon entering Beyond the Streets, you’re greeted by a wall of spray cans – tools of the craft – and some trippy works from painters Chaz Bojorquez and Kenny Scharf. From here, things branch off but eventually you end up in a large chamber tagged by Space Invader.
To the left you can see three door sculptures by mixed media artist Swoon; it’s hard to capture them in a photo, but they were majestic in person. There’s a whole Shepard Fairey area behind that wall, and a disembodied police car from LA artist RISK in the other room.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Beyond the Streets was seeing the generational passing-down of street art culture. I loved seeing one mom explaining the origins of Space Invader to her curious daughter. Can you imagine seeing all this as a kid?
Patrick Martinez’s work played on neon signs with pointed messages about the current political climate:
Entering the next area, you’re immediately taken aback by a massive canvas erected by Takashi Murakami, the “superflat” movement pioneer, who went off with all that freedom. Behind it, you’ll see a new piece from RETNA.
Trash Records was a tightly-curated faux shop designed to look like a neighborhood music and skate bodega. Its vinyl crates were filled with records from Roger Gastman’s personal collection, and “playing is encouraged,” according to a sign outside:
The centerpiece of the next room was the famed FAILE temple, a piece first put up in Lisbon eight years ago, designed to look like it’s been there for all eternity. Next to it, there’s a new work from Banksy, his first to exhibit in America since 2010. There’s an easy-to-miss space behind the Banksy where Randall Harrington put up one of my favorite pieces in the whole exhibit, a nuclear warhead with a miniature diorama of a drive-in movie theater playing Godzilla inside of it. You had to peer through the nuke’s tail to see it; the whole concept was truly awe-inspiring.
In the final room before the doors, there was a stellar multimedia piece from Felipe Pantone, Artifact to Artifact Communication. Besides the car painted into chromatic brilliance, projection mapping made small pixelations on the adjacent works, digital errors breaking into our physical world.
As you exit, you stumble into a replica of the Venice Skate Pavilion, a relic of the convergent skate culture and street art communities that was demolished in 2000. From the garden to the tags across all the tables and benches, you can tell this recreation was done quite lovingly.
On my way back to my car, I walked past the mural I saw being painted on the way in. The artist was gone, but there was a contentment seeing that their art remained etched into the fabric of the community now. I felt that same feeling again on the way home, spotting one of Shepard Fairey’s many André the Giant stencils.
Beyond the Streets may be gone, and the first generation of street artists may have graduated to the suit-and-tie realms, but as long as street artists are still making work that is important, there’s no reason they can’t double-dip, and as long as new artists are rising from their influence, the movement will endure.
(Pictured: TAKI 183, one of the first modern-day street artists, at Beyond The Streets)