In theory, this was an exhibit I should have loved since I love street art. The problem with street art, though, is it’s difficult to translate into a gallery setting. The task of the gallery owner, then, is to find a way to codify artwork that is by its very nature disparate and with few unifying characteristics other than they appeared on some public wall at some point. How do you relocate a Banksy stencil (because if there’s a street art exhibit, there’s some attendant Banksy bullshit) from a parking lot in downtown LA and put it on a wall? How does it relate to a Robbie Conal poster? Does it even have to? And are artists like Keith Haring or R. Crumb still relevant in this specific context?
But looking at the exhibit at the Robert Berman Gallery, I don’t really think there was much thought on how to present the work. It was more like going to a Z Gallery back in 1991. A whole lot of framed posters covering as much wall space as possible, but without the Metropolis poster to lure you in. There were some lovely, abrasive, thoughtful pieces there, but it was impossible to appreciate anything because there was just so much of it.
Specifically, I liked the Ron English piece “Abraham Obama.” Mostly because it was small and wasn’t garish or overpowering, but it was a nice blending of both presidents’ faces and the blue eyes were just so beautiful. But it was about 20 feet up and in a corner so it was easy to miss.
Moving around the gallery was also problematic. Despite being a small space to begin with, they decided to put a rather large display case in the middle of the gallery which, when combined with a superfluous wall that increased the exhibit space at the expense of flow, made appreciating anything from a distance of more than 2′ impossible. And if there were more than five people in the gallery at a time, and when I got there a rather loud man and several acolytes converged on the gallery to show how very clever they were, you were spending as much time avoiding the other patrons as you were looking at the artwork.
And to add insult to injury, the gallery’s website isn’t even working. At least not for me. I keep getting a “page not found” error message, so I couldn’t link to any of the work I managed to see in passing and thought was worth sharing. Overall, it was an exhibit I really wanted to like but couldn’t because it was such a slapdash mess.