The New York Times - ‘Beyond the Streets’ Embraces the Sprawling World of Graffiti
An epically scaled exhibition flaunts the art form’s pioneers as well as its provocateurs.
Article originally published August 22, 2019 on The New York Times
It’s important to remember that graffiti was never just one thing. Within a few short years from when scrawled tags first went up on walls and trains, graffiti became marketing, fine art, politics and more. The form evolved rapidly and spread widely, captured in an eternal tug of war between external legitimacy and internal credibility, between the outlaw fringes and solvency.
Admirably, the traveling exhibition “Beyond the Streets” tells both of those stories side by side, and sometimes all at once. Curated by Roger Gastman, it takes up two floors of a huge new development in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Less a narratively driven exhibition than a themed amusement park of all things graffiti and post-graffiti, it embraces the movement’s many tributaries — even ones that seem at odds with one another, via an epically scaled show that takes in historical images and contemporary art, hyper-stylized abstraction and gut-level immediacy, news accounts and ephemera.
Beyond the Streets
Through Sept. 29 at 25 Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; beyondthestreets.com.
Jon Caramanica is a pop music critic for The Times and the host of the Popcast. He also writes the men's Critical Shopper column for Styles. He previously worked for Vibe magazine, and has written for the Village Voice, Spin, XXL and more. @joncaramanica