Archive for April, 2011

Graffiti/Street Art

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

La Mesa mural

La Jolla graffiti

In Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art is showing “Art in the Streets” at the Geffen Contemporary. Presented are works by 50 artists covering the history of graffiti and street art from New York to LA, Paris, and Sao Paulo.  Well, 50 artists, but obviously not all of the ones people respect judging from the comments on the site, www.moca.org.  A lot of yelling about the artist who was left out, Blek le Rat from Paris. But you can find him elsewhere on the Net.

ARTnews, in its January issue, has a great article “Beyond Graffiti.”  So the interest in street art is becoming legit. Depending on whether you call it graffiti, street art, tagging, or crap on a wall, it is getting press.

Yesterday in the LA Times, tho, the police noticed an increase in graffiti around the Geffen and the museum has taken to the streets erasing the tags.  That’s a rather mixed message. Seems to me if they are presenting as valid the street art inside the museum, they ought to leave the new tags outside at least for the duration of the show. It’s like, good art/bad art.

One commentator  felt that if the art was illegal, it wasn’t art.  But you can steal a Picasso or a Venus from a dig, then sell it illegally, and it’s still art.

El Cajon art from the street

El Cajon art from the street

Nothing in my neighborhood approaches the kind of street art at MOCA.  Nevertheless, there is some art around that is visible from the street, although it is not tagger art, or graffiti, but there by permission of the property owner.  If you get gas at the 76 station in El Cajon  you can look at cranes and pandas on all the walls and metal boxes inside and out while you pump the gas.  No one in the store knows anything about the artist or artists, so it remains anonymous for most of us.

Electrical box

Some other electrical boxes around are painted, with varying skill, and a mural in downtown La Mesa reflects the usual attitude towards graffiti–erase it fast.

I posted the red flower in the blog I did on the murals in La Jolla.  I need to go back and see if it is still there.  It’s in an alley next to a commissioned mural by Kim MacConnel.  So within feet of each other, the illegal graffiti and the legal mural.  Sounds like the streets around Geffen Contemporary.

John Baldessari at the Palm Springs Art Museum

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Banner, Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum currently is exhibiting John Baldessari prints from the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation so we headed over the mountains and across the desert to Palm Springs via Borrego Springs.

John Baldessari,  a conceptual artist, often juxtaposes disparate images in a single composition which sometimes form something the viewer can see as a unit, as in Two Figures: One Leaping (Orange); One Reacting (With Blue and Green), 2005, and sometimes remain disparate as in Two Erect Figures/Two Skateboards, 1995.

Sign, Borrego Springs

So with that in my head, I was not surprised to find along the way to Palm Springs the natural beauty of the desert and the quirkiness of humans butting against each other, from signs in Borrego Springs to drifting sand on abandoned buildings in Salton Sea leading to lush groves of date palms.

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a magnificent building, inside and out.  The outdoor cafe was an oasis, with a long water pool, beautiful desert plants, and sculptures.

Castaneda, Thinking Woman, 1979

Inside, photos of the Baldessari works were not permitted so you need to find another source for images. But I’ll describe just three.

Baldessari’s precise prints and sense of humor make this exhibition worth the drive.  Some of the works were clearly puns, as his cast aluminum pink nose amid globs of white clouds on a blue background mounted on the ceiling so you have to look up to see it, God Nose, 2008. Some are clearly just fun, as his The Pot with Nine Removals, 1996, the first frame shows palm trees and a hunter/missionary in a cannibal pot surrounded by eight blond native girls and then, one by one, the girls are photoshopped out, then the man in the pot is gone, and the tenth frame is just the pot. Of the more serious works, my favorite is Rollercoaster, 1989-90, two black and white photos of a rollercoaster with a curving line painted from right to left in a thin sweep of color like the down and up of the coaster.

In the museum shop I bought the beautiful book of the exhibition and some white pencils with Baldessari’s famous sentence, “I will not make any more boring art,” written in black three times along the length of the pencil. I’m giving them to my artist friends.

I also bought a large eraser with the word WRONG stamped on it. You can’t get much more conceptual than that.  I’m keeping it.