Several weeks I visited James and Karla Murray’s exhibit/book release party for Storefronts. For 10 years, this married couple documented small businesses while witnessing their increasing disappearance. Prints of the works were on the walls creating quite a melancholic experience of a fading uniqueness. Now the exhibit has left the gallery and has been transformed into something altogether original.
Prior to documenting the businesses, the Murray’s specialized in shooting graffiti art. While meticulously photographing graffiti from the early 1990s to approximately 2001, they started to notice that small business buildings were disappearing, paving way for corporate, urban development. As they were shooting graffiti art, they started focusing on the buildings themselves, getting to know the owners and gaining a sense of their history.
The exhibition MOM and POPism brings these two elements together in one of the most distinctive ways imaginable. Graffiti artist Billi Kid curated the show, reinterpreting the Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York book. Selected images have been enlarged as close to life-size scale and mounted onto boards and displayed on the roof of the Gawker Media building. In the weeks preceding the show, artists from all over the country—including Blanco, Buildmore, Cake, Celso, Cern, David Cooper, Destroy & Rebuild, Enamel Kingdom, Goldenstash, Infinity, Kngee, Lady Pink, Matt Siren, Morgan Thomas, Peru Ana Ana Peru, Plasma Slugs, Royce Bannon, Shai R. Dahan, Shiro, The Dude Company, Tikcy, Under Water Pirates and Zoltron—were chosen to paint graffiti art on these images. Billi Kid carefully mapped out each area for each of the 26 artists to contribute. The effect is stunning, to say the least. Each artist’s individuality contributed to crazy narratives that were like nothing I have seen before.
Graffiti art has been problematic as far as presentation. When one sees it in the street, it’s easy to ignore the intracies and stories within the works. The sterile environment of a gallery can negate some of the grittiness of the art, sometimes reducing the effect to mere exoticism. A gallery is far too much of a reverential place to really experience this genre. By using this installation method on a rooftop, the “realness” of the paintings go hand in hand with the idea of an exhibition.
The opening included a DJ and crucial lighting placements, which gave off the vibe of a surreal block party in a time capsule that never existed. One was surrounded by nearly life-sized photos of Mom and Pop stores that actually looked like real buildings. As these images blended in with real actual buildings, it was a little hallucinatory, while emphasizing the true nature of graffiti art.
It’s hard to pick out a favorite piece since there were so many highlights. The collorabtive nature of this project is the real star. Lady Pink’s wasted woman on the sidewalk in front of Ralph’s Discount Store seems to answer David Cooper’s “average guy” intertwining with the store’s sign. In fact, that was one of the key elements that made the entire exhibition work. Text is the common denominator between the graffiti and the photos. By tying these two together in such an original way, both genres were brought to life. Utterly amazing.
Exhibition viewings are available by appointment throughout August. For more information or to request a viewing appointment please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.