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Max Benavidez


Real Street Art and L.A. Legacies

Posted: 04/20/11 07:50 PM ET

When Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Director Jeffrey Deitch whitewashed Blu's image of coffins wrapped in dollar bills, he joined a long legacy of mural and graffiti censors in Los Angeles that probably started in 1932 when the city covered David Alfaro Siqueiros' famous "America Tropical" at Olvera Street. Blu' s piece and the Siqueiros mural were both censored for their political content. Their imagery made people uncomfortable so the walls were sterilized. I have to wonder if Deitch even knows that "America Tropical" was censored and why. Does he even care? But that' s another story for another time.

For now, a few words on the "Art in the Streets" show at MOCA. No, Mr. Deitch, street art is no longer street art once it's inside a museum or gallery. In 1981 the Craft and Folk Art Museum put on a show called "The Murals of Aztlan." And the same could be said for that show. The powerful muralism that stood for so much for the Latino community during the rise of the Chicano movement became individual artworks ripped out of context once they were "captured" inside an institution. Same deal for the MOCA show. You can't bring the raw energy and sheer free expression that is global street art into an institution and still label it street art. Maybe that's why it's called "Art in the Streets." Yes, this is the hottest thing going in the art world. Almost everything else is so boring. Well, now this can be boring, too. Sure there is some good art in the show but where in the world, for example, is the whole street art history of Asco, etc. Banksy's a great showman but as his film Exit Through the Gift Shop showed us, the art world can be conned. A lot of money is involved (Banksy is a millionaire or more), but there's a lot of money involved on Wall Street and in oil, too. So what? This show is basically a show about validation by the self-appointed arbiters of high culture.

In response, here's a slide show of real street art from Barcelona. These photos were taken a few years ago but they still have their own power and rough charm. See the image that shows an artist in broad daylight painting his street art. The police in Barcelona just walked by. They didn't see the artist as a vandal. He was part of life in the city. (The photos are courtesy of Katherine de Aragon.)

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