Street art and hip-hop have been intertwined since Lee copped his first case of Krylon. If that sentence makes no sense, watch Wild Style, then Style Wars, then Bomb the System. We can meet back here when you’re done.
The interplay between hip-hop and the high art world has been there since Freddy Braithwaite became Fab and figured out that there was money to be made exporting Bronx graf culture to the Cabernet and Camembert crowd. Figures like Basquiat, the BX bombers, and the great Rammellzee shuttled back and forth between uptown and downtown in search of getting paid. Blondie became the first Mac Miller. And the gatekeepers of post-modernity discovered the drum machine. It seemed win-win.
But as the Bratton era emerged, the tenor of street art shifted. The largely black and Puerto Rican graf writers got less light. The new faces of Street Art were largely low on melanin and large on appropriating hip hop culture for dubious means. E.G. the idea of Dash Snow, a trust fund enfant terrible joining the IRACK crew and spraying semen all over New York Post headlines. Or Space Invader’s obvious 8-bit shams that conned people into thinking stencil meant subversion. Entire the rise of the avant tarde.
Since the late 90s, street art has embarked on an enviable run, one that often overshadowed less flashy forms of fine art. Guys like Banksy and Shepherd Fairey are household names and linchpins for the exhibit that recently ran at MOCA over the last several months. Arts criticism isn’t my forte and I have neither the time nor patience to delve into the complex questions raised and rejected by the best and worst street artists. Most of me sides with Alex Blagg, who said that “the only people who find Banksy profound are four year olds and hipsters.” Conversely, I found Exit Through the Gift Shop surprisingly smart and self-aware.
Last night was the closing party and they wrangled Peanut Butter Wolf, No Age, and the Kogi taco truck to shut it down (word to Onyx). Despite my inherent aversion to the idea of codifying and intellectualizing the wild style, I found the exhibit impressive and thorough, paying suitable reverence to the older gods, and not obeying the absurd hype that has cloaked some of their pseudo-descendants.
Midway through the exhibit, I decided to start shooting amateur iPhone photos because most of PotW’s readers don’t live in lands where medical marijuana is legal. Hence, here are some the highlights. And yes, they did include cans of 8-Ball with straws in the RAMM section. It provided a damn fine filigree. Word is bondage.