“Just, from the time you walk in, there’s a lot of ‘Holy s–t’ moments,” said Roger Gastman, the author and historian enlisted to curate the “Beyond the Streets” exhibition, which included the help of Adidas Skateboarding, bowing in Los Angeles this weekend.
Gastman curated the exhibition, opening Sunday, with Juxtapoz Magazine editor in chief Evan Pricco, author and historian Caleb Neelon and New York graffiti writer and historian David Villorente.
There’s plenty to look at: It’s more than 40,000 square feet of paintings, sculptures, photos, films and other mediums from Shepard Fairey, Takashi Murakami, Retna, Jason Revok, Jenny Holzer, C.R. Stecyk III, Lady Pink, Dash Snow, Guerrilla Girls, Barry McGee, Chaz, Lee Quiñones, Swoon, Taki 183 and Dennis Hopper. There’s also Adidas Skateboarding’s re-creation of the Venice Pavilion, a skate pit and also home to graffiti art in the Eighties and Nineties.
A collection of merchandise, dubbed “Mark Maker/Rule Breaker,” made in conjunction with Adidas and a number of artists involved in “Beyond the Streets,” will be sold at an on-site gift shop. The exclusives include T-shirts, totes, pins, skateboard decks and a limited-edition shoe collaboration with Fairey.
To hear Gastman tell it, the exhibition is a story of how some of the community’s biggest names began and where those individuals are now in a showing of the important artists, he said, who went from the streets and into studios, galleries and museums.
“This is art. It’s real,” Gastman said. “I want people to leave here inspired.”
The showcase is being put on in partnership with Adidas Skateboarding, Discover Los Angeles, Modernica, Montana Colors, NPR and Steel Partners Foundation.
“Adidas has a really true and authentic place in the narrative and history of street culture and when Roger was coming up with the idea to do the show he reached out to us because his whole point of view was he wanted for this show to be reflective of things that are true to street culture and Adidas was one of those brands,” said Adidas senior communications manager Cullen Poythress.
That a behemoth as large as Adidas was involved is part of an interesting story in just how much the art has evolved and been adopted by a more mainstream audience.
“At first, I looked at it as almost negative and it was driving me crazy,” Gastman said of this evolution. “I could go in an art supply store and buy a stencil kit and the best spray paint and it was absolutely baffling and mind-blowing to me….For a couple years I was upset and confused and then I started to really think about it and got much more of an open mind and realized that because of all of this, the culture can expand more. People can learn about it more. People can be accepted by it and we can really teach from it also. That was so important. So much of what we’re doing here I look at as education. We’re educating on who the true artists are.”
Street art is a buzzword today, Gastman went on to say, pointing out the body of work arose out of what is an illegal activity. Today there are now college courses and books on the matter. There’s also, in a related evolution, the merging with luxury fashion brands in perhaps the ultimate sign of the culture’s rise.
“I’ve asked myself that so many times of what’s sustainable and what’s not sustainable in this culture and when a bubble’s going to burst,” Gastman said. “I don’t think any bubble’s bursting. I think this is real art and real culture. Kids in the Nineties who were teenagers are now adults. They’re making decisions at a lot of these companies, whether they’re a new streetwear brand or a couture brand. They’re in their 30s or 40s, so they’re now in positions of power and this is what they grew up looking at.”
“Beyond the Streets,” which is $25 for general admission, opens Sunday and runs through July 6 at 1667 N. Main St. in Los Angeles. It then moves to New York with additional locations to be revealed at a later date.