If one is searching to learn about contemporary art, they will rightly find themselves in New York City to experience it first hand. A thorough exploration of New York’s art scene today is required to just scratch the surface of the art historical significance of the city. This includes visiting museums such as the MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the New Museum as well as exploring various galleries in Chelsea and the Lower East Side. This prevalent and intimate access to the arts is what makes New York the center of the contemporary art world. However, this museum and gallery art world is not the only thriving art world, and although it often goes unnoticed in the shadow of prestigious white wall exhibition spaces, graffiti and street art is everywhere in New York City.
On the bustling walks from gallery to gallery, one might be so concentrated on which artist they will be seeing next that they neglect to see all of the art around them. Look to the left--a completely sticker-bombed street light. Look to the right--a throwie on the side of a building that only could have got there by some graffiti artist’s deathly, dangling maneuver. Were these public exhibitions curated by a highly educated art expert? Absolutely not..but are they still art? Absolutely. So why is it so easy for viewers not directly linked to the niche culture to walk by unengaged on their way to the Guggenheim? It could be simply because it is an nontraditional and sketchy medium that often carries a dark connotation due to its illegality. Or it could just be so ingrained in the environment that it sits unilluminated in peripheral vision.
In graffiti and street art culture, there lies a sort of “us and them” vibe in conversation with the gallery space. On top of that, there is an even harsher divide between writers who write and writers who become artists--also known as “selling out”. Graffiti and street art culture have begun to bleed into the gallery world, bringing a little grit to the sterile white walls. The lines of two worlds are being blurred in real time and it is a tad confusing. Can a piece made in the style of graffiti be still considered graffiti? Many graffiti writers would say no, but some galleries would say yes based on the flow of the art market in recent times.
This mixed new media animation attempts to draw attention to this divide between the graffiti/street art culture and gallery culture. Their interpretations of “art” tend to conflict at some times, and at other times, they work symbiotically, thriving in their own ways separately due to their differences and subcultures. The imagery within the animation is meant to be confusing at times to mimic the conflict between the two art worlds--but it is important to note that there is no intended suggestion of a superior art world. The presented cross-culture mingling in the piece suggests the blurring of the lines towards integration but there remains imagery suggesting the hesitation on both sides to meld.
I was inspired to make this piece after viewing a few animations being shown in museums "Tales of Our Time" in the Guggenheim and "Imitation of Life" at the new Whitney) . This is not a typical medium you will find in traditional art, so it further speaks to the evolution of the mainstream art world. Throughout the semester, we began to experience new nontraditional forms of art that fall into the realm on "new media". It is interesting to see how exhibitions like "Dreamlands" are becoming more prevalent in the contemporary art lexicon. In previous years, people didn't know how to experience new media art works, making it harder to access in comparison to a painting or a sculpture. I think that graffiti and street art is experiencing a similar conflict, so to me, it proved interesting to blend the two worlds (graffiti / street art and new media) to draw a parallel.
Additionally, it peaked my interest to create scenes bringing attention to the graffiti/street art subcultures due to the structure of the NY Semester on Contemporary Art. I absolutely loved the course and it has introduced me to many of the artists that I now draw inspiration from, I just happened to notice a bit of a disconnect that stood out solely because of my participation in the street art culture. After a conversation with Katie, I realized that the course was just as much about walking through the city and experiencing all of the aspects of what the streets have to offer as it was about visiting galleries, museums, and studios. This really made me consider everything around me. Our destination was often-times a museum or a gallery, all of the sticker art, throwies, street installations, wheat-pastes, and stencils fell to the wayside in pursuit of “real” contemporary art. This also has a lot to do with the fact that it is so hard to cover every type of art in the time constraint of one semester.
Now, it is important to get into the symbolism within my piece. Scattered throughout the piece are scenes depicting a walk through Manhattan. This imagery does not directly allude to art specific to the captures streets, but it represents the journey we took walking from gallery to gallery in the NY semester course and how this time of walking felt like a gallery in it self with all of the street art and graffiti around me; the journey representing the gallery between the galleries. Another important bit of imagery to consider are the scenes in which graffiti mingles in the gallery world and "fine art" mingles in the street. The Matisse being hung on a street wall and a street art piece being sprayed onto a canvas in a gallery playfully highlights the tension between the two worlds having different opinions on what it art worth making/viewing. On top of the narrative imagery was a layer of static in which brought a sense of blurryness to the piece. Its function was to serve as a cloud of uncertain and undefined energy that both graffiti/street art and new media face. It creates a blur between the art worlds not as heavily represented in the contemporary art scene and represents a feeling of anxiety as well as it represents a feeling of crossover as boundaries between the art worlds merge.
My takeaway message (as corny as it may sound) to all of those who participated in the course is: look around you while you walk from the subway to the Met, there is literally art everywhere and you might just see an artist’s work that might make its way into the museum’s collection. It wouldn't be the craziest thing in the world considering the direction new media is taking in the contemporary art world!