People have been trying to think of ways to get graffiti into art galleries and museums for years now. What do you do? Big size photos? Chip off a wall and install it in the gallery? Encourage graffiti artists to hold forth in the gallery and then sell the walls?
Of course, there are some people who would prefer to see that graffiti remain "uncommoditized." Let it remain the people’s art, they say, a creative commons. Spare it the diminishments of collector enthusiasm and all those smarmy parties. Spare it the deformations of an art market and all those new temptations. Spare it the status of a product and, God knows, the kind of thing that gets given away in replica at a McDonalds to celebrate the latest "urban" movie. Funny, but the people who make these noble arguments almost always have comfy jobs and incomes. Meanwhile, graffiti artists are obliged to live in relative obscurity and relative poverty. They actually welcome exposure and payment.
At some point someone cracked the problem. And it is so fiendishly simple, it’s enough to make you weep with gratitude and admiration. Simply reproduce the real world graffiti on a model train box car (as above). And, Bob, as they say, is your uncle.
How often innovation has this blindingly obvious character. After all, there was the world working hard to accommodate the graffiti artists, turning out perfect models of the box cars, an exquisite medium for graffiti as art (as opposed to graffiti as graffiti). All someone needed to see the opportunity and scale the graffiti down. Sure, something is lost in the process. Just as surely, something is gained. Graffiti can move from the street to the gallery, and, who knows, a living room near you.
But this wasn’t a solution so obvious that any one thought of it for a very long time. I was part of the museum community when we were trying to "wrap our heads" around this one. No one thought of a model train. Not once. Not even close. We were too busy being gallery-centric (aka museum centric, aka total bone heads). You might say we were having trouble thinking outside the museum.
I wish I could tell you who is responsible for this innovation. For all I know it happened years ago. (Seconds after I left the museum world, possibly?) But I can tell you that there is an exhibit of this graffiti now open at the Ghetto Mansion in Los Angeles. The exhibit included the work of the following artists. I expect you’ve seen their names around.
Rail X Rockers
Skate All Cities
For more on the show, see the Juxtapoz coverage of it here.
Jeannette Harshbarger for the photo above. See more of her work at the Juxtapoz website.
Um, Keith Haring?
Nice article. I just kind of stumbled upon it messing around with different google searches. I found it quite interesting. I am the individual who organized the show mentioned above. If you are interested in gaining more information about the show, and its underlined meaning, please feel free to contact me