“If people aren’t going to like it they probably have no tattoos, probably never been in a street fight and probably wear a condom every time…”, muses Mister Cartoon, one of the slew of famed street artists who appear in the exploration of contemporary graffiti that is Outside In: The Story of Art in the Streets. With this statement he is separating those who view graffiti as creation from those who perceive it to be the arrogant destruction of public property and, by association, those who are open minded versus the squares of the world—according to Mister Cartoon anyway.
To the contrary, the beauty of this film is that you needn’t be a street art aficionado to appreciate the unquestionable creativity and sheer scale of the diverse and wide ranging work produced by the artists featured in Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) director and curator Jeffrey Deitch’s exhibition. By taking graffiti inside the walls of an art gallery and onto our screens through the lens of director Alex Stapleton‘s camera, Outside In allows the self proclaimed squares of the world, who may feel more comfortable inside the confines of a gallery than in a graffiti laden alleyway, to interact with the intrinsically rebellious movement that is graffiti-and keep their condoms on too.
The piece raises questions about ownership, property and whether permanence is a prerequisite of serious art. These questions are naturally divisive, eliciting emotional and heated responses during the film-the exhibition’s opening is described as potentially one of the most important moments for art in the 21st century minutes taggers are likened to to baby pigeons (like the aforementioned flying rodents you know they exist but you never see them). Regardless of your stance on graffiti both the dedication to the craft of artists such as Shepard Fairey, Lee Quiñones, Swoon, Futura, Mister Cartoon, Revok, Martha Cooper and Invader, as well as what they produce, is “at the worst…magnificent.”