Monday, April 25, 2011

Exit Through the MOCA

I don't like modern art.

Modern art doesn't have to be explained, it doesn't have to follow any rules or guidelines; modern art can be formless, shapeless, messy, non-sensical, even ridiculous. If I were to write a blog with no paragraphs, no sentence structure and no standardized spelling it would be unreadable garbage, literate trash not worth the encrypted bits of data it's written on. But splatter some paint on canvas, cover a painting in abstract geometric shapes, take a picture of a soup can, and suddenly it's "art".

I despise modern artists - these new age con-men that hide behind their pseudo scientific etymology that criticizes the viewer for not understanding their post-modern, post-minimalist, conceptual-realist, impressionist via post-impressionist, neo-expressionist movement. The modern artist does not have to be "great", only to have others perceive them as "great"; their art requires no study or great skill - it's meant to be mass produced, copied, emulated. Modern art requires nothing on the part of the artist or the viewer; technique, style, and form are irrelevant, all that matters is how the art makes you "feel".

An eight year old by the name of Autumn de Forest began producing art pieces when she was five - she's already raked in $200,000. Doesn't matter if she's a child prodigy or if she's just lucky - people like her work because buying an 8-year old's art makes them feel "good."

Not even war has managed to escape the touchy-feely modern day art movement. In the early days of operation "Iraq Freedom" bomber crews would write epithet's on the sides of their bombs; "Take that Camel Jockey!" or "Hope you've got 72 virgins waiting on the other side, Mohammad!" Reporters took photographs, there was an uproar, and the Air Force apologized, promising a quick stop to the practice of writing insults on bombs. It was evidently okay to blow someone up, just not to call them a name while doing it.

Better to hit me with sticks and stones and break my bones because y'know, names can really hurt me.

One of the newest movements in modern art is "Street Art", an art movement that started about twenty years ago off the streets of New York and LA. Street artists are modern day surrealists that create guerrilla style art by placing their images on unsanctioned public space. Many don't consider them artists at all, but unlicensed vandals who should be fined and jailed for spraying "graffiti" on public buildings. Growing up with '70's and '80's pop culture, street artists don't appear to be interested in redefining art, but simply questioning its meaning by stating it doesn't have any meaning.

In other words, they delight in thumbing their nose at the establishment, especially the post modern art movement.

Last year, Banksy, the Andy Warhol of the street art movement, made a documentary entitled Exit Through The Giftshop. The movie was supposed to be a documentary about Banksy until he takes over the film and spins the cameras on filmmaker Thierry Guetta. Although Thierry Guetta has no discernible talent, Banksy lends him credibility, transforming Thierry into Mr. Brainwash, a non-talented overhyped genius sensation. A couple testimonials, a write up in the LA Weekly, and Thierry's Brainwash originals transform into priceless gems worth thousands of dollars.

Bat Papi is my favorite.

Starting this weekend the LA museum of contemporary art (MOCA) put on the first major museum "Street Art" exhibition - Art in the Streets. Like a mid-westerner avoiding a vegan restaurant, the MOCA is the kind of museum I would never enter unless I wanted to make myself irrationally angry watching people ogle over puddles of dripping ooze, but for Street Art I'll make an exception.

Street Art doesn't pretend to be anything, it is just as devoid of meaning as any other kind of modern art, except Street Art is both an incessant celebration of pop-culture and never ending mockery of the modern art movement.

My uncle Bernard is in town, so I decide to take him and my cousin Arlie to the exhibit. We park and Arlie pops for the tickets, $10 a piece. After nearly running a couple of pedestrians over, we discover we're at the wrong part of the museum, we'll have to take a shuttle to the exhibit which is being held in another part of the MOCA downtown. Ironically this was the best thing we could have done because the line for tickets outside the actual event looks to be about an hour long.

Inside we are greeted by a mural of dead animals covered in doors that function like a macabre pop up book, when the doors are flipped "open" they reveal the animals interior organs. Brains, guts, the digestive system. People open the doors then scurry away in revulsion.

Looking out over the museum the entire building strikes me as a carnival. The MOCA's interior is covered in graffiti, stencil art, and posters with videos playing in the background. It's packed with Hollywood hipsters wearing ironic T-shirts and coiffed hair, faces masked under thick McNamara glasses, bodies decorated with sleeves of tattoos, wrapped in so many lairs of irony one wonders if there is a person beneath the "look".

The crowd is an exhibit unto itself, young MILF's with adorable children who function not as kids but as fashion accessories, manicured metrosexuals, 5'1 lesbian couples with matching chain tattoos, unshaven intellectuals wearing leather jackets and sneakers, dolled up Asian girls being towed by their dopey white boy boyfriends, Echo Park Bohemians and vogue Westsiders who look like they rarely cross East of the 110, teenage taggers who drool over the cholo graffiti with wonder and envy.

As they say in LA, it's not an event, it's a "happening."

The art is as varied as it is bizarre; some of it I recognize because I've already seen it decorating the streets of LA for years; Shepard Fairey's Andre the Giant entitled "Obey" (he's also done the blue and red Obama poster), Invader's trademark Space Invader coming down to Earth, Lady Pink's Buff Monster - and of course Banksy.

Banksy's "I Hate Mondays!

There are ceilings hung with paper fighter jets riding skateboards above armored shogun warriors, disembodied arms spray painting buildings, cars pimped out with blue and pink chrome, a 3-D replica of an interior subway car two feet wide, a drum set just sitting out in the open waiting for anyone to play it, murals of cholo's drinking 40's and chola's wielding uzi's dressed as angels. It takes me a moment to realize that much of the art isn't even on canvas, but spray painted or stenciled into the walls of the MOCA itself - someone is going to have a time cleaning this all up.

"I like it," Bernie declares grandly, "I like it because it's an act of free will. I just can't tell if they are doing it to make a statement or make a buck."

"Probably both."

"I normally hate museums," Arlie adds, "but this doesn't feel like a museum at all."

She's right, it doesn't feel like a museum. The exhibit isn't confined to the art on display, but is a part of the walls themselves, even the crowd feels like a part of the show. This is art not for the elite, but for the masses; subversive, irreverent, flippant - it requires no "specialized" training to appreciate; Street Art is both a celebration and inditement of the billboards and advertisements that have become such a part of our architecture we can no longer imagine life without them.

I don't like Modern Art, but for Street Art, I'll make an exception.

Banksy's Police Beating Pinata

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