Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Street Art at the MOCA in LA - Review & Photos

With the first major exhibition of street art in the USA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is leading the way for the rather ironic movement of placing graffiti in sterile environments (ok, maybe not sterile, but compared to the warehouses and train tracks of traditional graffiti "galleries," the white wall space of museums and art venues is comparably cleaner and hospital-like.)

This brings up the question, does street art belong in a gallery or museum? In some ways it seems to go against everything that makes it what it is -- undercover, for the people, and raw.

But, perhaps the move to bring graffiti indoors is simply a tipping of the hat to an art form long under-recognized for its potential for powerful messages and striking imagery. Of course, the famous UK street artist Banksy has helped in putting this medium on the dinner plate of serious collectors and critics. In fact, he has generously sponsored a free day for visitors to attend the exhibition at MOCA LA. Every Monday during the "Art in the Streets" show, Banksy has paid your way.

And that brings us to my visit yesterday.

Having been sponsored as a free day for anyone to visit, the "Art in the Streets" exhibit was THE most crowded museum exhibit I have ever been to (aside from opening receptions, etc.) There was a constant flow of visitors coming in the door and you often had to wait your turn to view a particular piece of art. (See the YouTube video we filmed while there for an idea of the crowds.)

It was a nicely installed show, with a good assortment of wall art, framed works, installations resembling graffiti studios, sculpture works and objects, and an illustrated timeline. Some of the works are photographed below.

My favorite aspect was that even the women's bathroom had been graffiti-bombed in bubble-gum pink with black outlines spelling the name "Annabelle!" It was striking that the restrooms were so clean, yet had the marks of spray paint. The most humorous part of the exhibit, to me, was the gift store -- it was so popular that a guard had to be placed at the door to keep the numbers of people inside down to fire-code quantities. I guess "exit through the gift shop" took on a very literal meaning for some. ;)

The exhibit will be up until August 8, 2011 with every Monday from now on sponsored with free admission for all (if you're driving, you will still have to pay $8 to park -- hey, it's LA!)

From the Banksy exhibit
Craig R. Stecyk III display

Visual Overture editor Arlissa Vaughn with Kenny Scharf mural
Wall of Shepard Fairey art

Not sure which artist this was, but note the interesting comparison to ancient Grecian pottery

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Art in Music -- When Lyrics and Compositions are Inspired by the Visual

Ahhh... art and music -- the two go together so well! Musicians have always found ways to incorporate visual art with their music through disc covers, posters, videos, and merchandise. But what about art in music? Some musicians have more than a passing fancy towards fine art -- some are visual artists themselves, collectors of fine art, or art historians.

Presented today are the first in a series of reviews of music that references the field of visual art in some manner. Today's theme -- "Odes" -- shares a few of the songs that are an homage to specific artworks, artists, or art movements. This is only part one of this theme, and only the first of seven blog posts about the topic of art in music in general!

Nat King Cole -- Mona Lisa
"Do you smile to tempt the lover, Mona Lisa? Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?" coos Nat with his beautiful voice and classic style. This song is a short, but well-done ode to Leonardo da Vinci's mysterious painting of Mona Lisa and to the overall mysteriousness of women.

Peter Gabriel -- Fourteen Black Paintings
This dramatic ode to Mark Rothko's black paintings speaks of the political and internal struggle of humanity. The chilling musical composition, in addition to the simple poetic lyrics are very thought-provoking. "From the pain come the dream, From the dream come the vision, From the vision come the people, From the people come the power, From this power come the change."

The Nields -- Georgia O
With a "Lillith Fair" attitude and folk-rock style, The Nields sing about the songwriter's muse, Georgia O'Keefe. Speaking of a strong emotional connection to an artist long-dead before the songwriter's lifetime, this song reminds me how powerful art is.

King Crimson -- The Night Watch
Opening with a long instrumental intro, the lyrics then provide a detailed description of Rembrandt's style and ideology, perhaps even describing a specific painting (but I haven't yet figured out which one.) Boasting of beautiful violins and guitars, this ode to the artist also gives hopeful to the future through it's lyrics and melodic tune.

Stay tuned for more "Art in Music" posts...

In researching the musings of various musicians about the topic of visual art, I found songs mentioning including art are somewhat limited in quantity, yet profoundly inspiring and memorable. I chose to sort my findings according to a few common themes and then present a review of each group on the following schedule:
  • ODES (Part 1) to specific artworks, artists, or art movements -- June 8 (4 songs)
  • LOVE songs, some hopeful and others confused, referencing art -- July 6 (6 songs)
  • HUMOROUS songs about art or specific artists -- August 3 (5 songs)
  • BIOGRAPHIES of specific artists' lives -- September 7 (3 songs)
  • ODES (Part 2) to specific artworks, artists, or art movements -- October 5 (4 songs)
  • BALLADS of heartbreak, using art as a metaphor -- November 2 (3 songs)
  • REALISTIC narrations of pain, hope, struggle, and life, presented with references to art -- December 7 (5 songs)