TO THOSE WHO QUESTION THE CASE FOR PUBLIC FUNDING OF THE ARTS:
I received my daily update from the Boston Magazine blog with tremendous excitement today, because there were a few posts which touched directly on issues I have been thinking about a lot lately. The first was entitled “How Boston Shapes City Resident: A new study proves that we’re still bound by our Puritanical history”. The post directs the reader toward Emily Badger’s piece for The Atlantic Cities in which she discusses a study entitled “The Cultural Construction of Self and Well-Being: A Tale of Two Cities“. Those two cities are Boston and San Francisco. The idea behind the study is that these cities have a tremendous amount in common, offering a perfect opportunity to examine what factors, then, might be responsible for the cities’ profound cultural differences.
Ironically, nothing makes me more angry at people who deface buildings with random spray paint scrawl messes than discovering really great street art. Folks, when you make it look ugly, you ruin it for everyone when you give graffiti a bad name. You can’t really call Nuria Mora’s work graffiti. But she’s not really doing murals either. The Spanish artist (featured on Design Milk on Wednesday) has an incredibly distinct style of street art, striking both for its uniqueness and its beauty. She has developed her art simultaneously within the gallery and on the streets, but it is her work in public spaces I find most exciting. She breathes new life into run down buildings and walls around the world.
In case I haven’t said it enough, one of my favorite periods in recent art history is the 1930s (in Europe, the United States and the then Soviet Union). This is largely due to the emphasis, at that time, on the production of public, politically significant art. As we cope with economic strain and uncertainty, as we had in the thirties, and all that follows from that in terms of social and political structure, it is not terribly surprising that the art of the 30s once again seems relevant.
Interestingly, in this environment, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is currently exhibiting a group of Diego Rivera’s portable murals. The exhibition is up through May 14. Although they are murals, and frescoes at that (whose inherent nature generally dictates that the art is part of the walls or ceilings of a building structure), these murals were originally made in the for a show at the Museum of Modern Art which took place from December 21, 1931 through January 27, 1932.
Every once in a while an idea comes along which is so clever that it seems absolutely obvious — even though it is being expressed for the first time.
I love graffiti — or more broadly, street art (actually, it is both more broadly and more narrowly, since the word art contains the idea that the art maker intends to engage with a viewer through his work, and therefore wants it to be good, or pretty, or expressive, or whatever it may be, but does not include someone randomly scrawling a mess in black paint in the side of a building to no end except destruction). But admittedly, there are a number of issues raised by street art which make it a contentious and problematic medium. If a building (wall, bridge, train track) is nondescript, run-down, urban squalor, or in some way in need of energy and beauty, graffiti may look like a positive addition to the structure. If the building is, instead, a recently completed structure, constructed to the tune of vast amounts of money by a talented architect who invested a lot of time and thought into its appearance, the same graffiti may be seen as destructive defacement. However, such a distinction suggests that one can objectively distinguish which structures belong in each of the two categories. That little problem aside, if we accept that, at its best, graffiti breaths new life and energy to derelict structures and spaces, Russian artist Nikita Nomerz’s work can be seen as its literal realization — concept made form in entirely literal terms. It is surprising that no one has done this before. After all, the urge to anthropomorphize seems like an almost irresistible human imperative. But, as far as I know, Nomerz is the first. Check out these photos of some of the work … it’s absolute trip.