In 2018, BEYOND THE STREETS had an extraordinary debut in Los Angeles, as something of a definitive showcase of graffiti, street art, and everything that goes with it. Under the slogan “Vandalism as Contemporary Art”, the exhibition is now getting ready to take over the city that means a lot to this artistic genre, and the place where it all began - New York City.
Opening on June 21st and staying on view through September 29, BEYOND THE STREETS promises an experience across two floors of Twenty Five Kent, a new 100,000-square-feet creative office building in Brooklyn ready to take on an incredible array of artworks. From installations to canvases and pieces, the works on view exceed the strict definitions of graffiti and street art, and include those that have left a mark on the art scene at large; here we have Jenny Holzer’s truisms, sculptures by FUTURA but also Cleon Peterson, and artworks by Guerrilla Girls and Takashi Murakami. The show couldn’t have come at a better time for Shepard Fairey either - 2019 is the year celebrating 30 years of his fruitful career, and at BEYOND THE STREETS, Facing the Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent will have its US debut.
Apart from the exhibition itself, BEYOND THE STREETS will include lectures, performances, film screenings and a curated gift shop with more than 150 items brought exclusively for this occasion - from apparel, prints and books, to accessories and limited editions.
The man behind the project is Roger Gastman, whose name you certainly know if you are familiar with the scene. A graffiti historian and urban anthropologist, he brought together artists with engaged with the public space and activism. We had a quick chat with Roger to discuss the idea behind BEYOND THE STREETS, and all the treats awaiting us at the New York show.
Widewalls: Could you tell us a little bit about the inception of BEYOND THE STREETS as an initiative?
Roger Gastman: I had been curating shows large and small for the past several years and doing large events for brands. I had an amazing time working on ART IN THE STREETS at MOCA and it was so culturally important. The mission needed to be expanded on and I didn’t want to have to wait for museums or follow the rules – It took a few years but we kicked off the first show in LA in 2018.
Widewalls: What was the public’s response to the inaugural LA show held last year?
RG: The response was great! 100,000 people came through the show. Young people, old people, families, people traveled to the show, Weird Al Yankovic showed up – it was wonderful. The support of the artists and the local community helped our success.
Widewalls: After LA, the show is now going to be presented in NYC, home to many historical events in the history of graffiti and street art. What does this mean to you personally?
RG: The graffiti-covered trains of NYC made graffiti famous. It made it the #1 destination for graffiti tourism. It means a great deal to bring this show to the city that is largely responsible for the entire culture.
Widewalls: And what does it mean for the art scene, both the one of the past and the one of now?
RG: NYC needs this show. The city is covered in art – so let's celebrate that with a great mix of the old and new.
Widewalls: More than 100,000 square feet of space, many artworks on view and a curated gift shop. How challenging is it to develop a project of this size?
RG: This show is massive. Almost twice the size of the LA show in 2018. And more than 85% of the works are new. Thankfully, the artists are behind the concept and supportive. But no matter what, it for sure is one of the largest challenges I have ever undertaken. It's more about the backend with permits, locations, cash flow management, etc. Doing something like this pretty much takes over your entire life and I am happy to say I have a great team working with me to make the vision happen.
Widewalls: What’s something that the visitors should definitely pay attention to when it comes to what’s on display, and why?
RG: This is the hardest question. There is so much amazing work. Something that was important to us was to place around the show enough works that are historical and ephemeral to root the shot back to its rawest form of the streets and also to show how far the culture has expanded.
Widewalls: At this point in your curatorial career, how would you describe the graffiti and street art scene? How far has it come?
RG: The world of graffiti and street art is MASSIVE. They are entire cultures with many subcultures that have spun off of them. I can't keep up with how much keeps coming up. I find the most joy in continuing to dig up the history, something that as these cultures continue to explode will become more important.
Widewalls: What’s next for you, and BEYOND THE STREETS?
RG: For the NYC version of BEYOND THE STREETS, we were able to expand the show and push the curation further. For futures versions of the show, we will continue on this mission – always thinking bigger.
Featured images: Martha Cooper - Style Wars Car by NOC 167 with Door Open, Man Reading Newspaper, 96th Street Station, New York, NY 1981. Photo © Martha Cooper; Mark Gonzales - Untitled, 2019. Photo courtesy of Mark Gonzales. All images courtesy BEYOND THE STREETS.