Out in the Street—Street art and post-street art

When I’m out in the street
I walk the way I wanna walk
When I’m out in the street
I talk the way I wanna talk
When I’m out in the street
When I’m out in the street
Baby, out in the street I don’t feel sad or blue
Baby, out in the street I’ll be waiting for you

 –Bruce Springsteen, “Out in the Street” from The River, 1980

How could I resist an opportunity to start an essay with a piece of Springsteen art? It fits because I’ve recently seen two fascinating exhibits of street art and post-street art. What is post-street art? I’ll get to that in a minute.

Chicago Street Art

The street art exhibit was Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street Art, shown at the Chicago Cultural Center from November thru January. I stopped in to spend some time there one day and I was struck by the creativity and vibrant use of materials. There was plenty of tagging, of course, and lots of image-based art created in many media. The fact that the exhibit was housed in a city building was interesting because not too long ago, the mayor had graffiti blasters out cleaning up such creativity all over the city.

The exhibit legend noted that graffiti writing proliferated in the ‘70s with improvements in spray-can technology and moved into image-based art in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The exhibit is a “multi-ethnic, intergenerational gathering of Chicago artists, many of whom were first connected by the ‘L,’ and whose disciplines are Graffiti and Street Art.” Some of the artists whose work I noted were Zore, Traz, Thor, Risk, G.P., The Champ, Capser, Nick Adam and Flex. We may not have heard of them but they’re well known in the street art community.

Post-Street Art

Not long after that, I spent time at an exhibit of “post-street art” at the Maxwell Colette Gallery on Ashland Avenue in the Noble Square neighborhood.

Gallery director Oliver Hind defined post-street art as art that has come off the street into galleries and collections; it has  almost become mainstream. I interviewed him for my Gapers Block review and we had a fascinating conversation about the art and some of the events that brought about the acceptance of street art by the gallery community. I mention these in my review: The 2008 use of a street artist’s portrait of Barack Obama as the official campaign portrait, and the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop about the work of street artists.

The current exhibit at Maxwell Colette is the work of two post-street artists: Peeta, an internationally known painter whose beautiful crystalline work is based on letterforms; and Alecks Cruz, a Chicago artist who creates tag-like sculptures out of corrugated boxes.

The art in the two exhibits is for sale and Hild has more interesting street art for sale in his gallery and online. My heart beat faster for several of them.

You can view The Maxwell Colette exhibit through March 1. Hours are 12-6pm Wednesday through Saturday. More information in my review.

Out in the Street

The Springsteen song I quoted above has been adapted into a street ballet but so far I can’t find it online. I haven’t given up, however. I was transfixed by it at a Springsteen symposium in 2009. In place of that, as today’s treat, here’s a video of a young Bruce Springsteen singing “Out in the Street” in Paris in 1985. This is the period when he was touring on his album Born in the USA. The video includes his red-haired future wife, Patti Scialfa (they were married in 1991), and the late great Clarence Clemons in white.