Roger Gastman, the noted graffiti historian and street art collector, is opening a permanent home in Los Angeles for Beyond the Streets, his popular series of museum-scale exhibitions celebrating street artists past and present.
“The artists we work with have always asked us to do more. And our collector base, our audience, just kept asking for more,” Gastman told Artnet News.
The gallery will offer a mix of museum-style exhibitions featuring loans from private collections, as well as exhibitions of new work for sale – something that has never officially been a part of previous Beyond the Streets shows.
“It’s never been publicly offered for sale, but we do place a lot of art in collections,” Gastman said.
The project’s roots stretch back to 2011, when Gastmas curated the hit “Art in the Streets” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. In 2018, he took over a 40,000-square-foot warehouse in Los Angeles to direct the first “Beyond the Streets” show.
A New York edition followed in 2019, and the pandemic-delayed London and Shanghai versions are currently in the pipeline. (There was also a virtual art fair Beyond the Streets in late 2020.)
But for Gastman, a smaller, more nimble space that would operate continuously always stayed in the back of his mind.
“When we do these huge Beyond the Street shows, they’re amazing and we love them, but we’re focusing on 100+ artists at once. It’s difficult to give all artists the attention we want to give them,” he said. “Here we can focus on a theme or individual artists for six to eight weeks, and we repeat that a few weeks later – and it’s free for visitors.”
When he decided it was finally time to pursue the idea, Gastman scoured the city’s rental properties before falling in love with a 6,000-square-foot building on La Brea Avenue. It offers high ceilings, skylights and – crucially – its own parking space.
“It just seemed so perfect. Within a week we had a lease signed,” Gastman said. “It’s an area that I love, that’s so central and convenient to everything – and there are so many galleries on this block.”
The space will open on September 24th with Post Graffiti, an exhibition tracing the evolution of graffiti, from living legends of the scene like CRASH, Eric HAZE and Lady Pink to younger artists like POSE, Othelo Gervacio and Nehemiah Cisneros .
“Basically, graffiti writes your name over and over again for the sake of fame. It writes on the walls, it writes on the trains, it writes on the roofs. And it’s illegal. Sometimes it looks like vandalism, sometimes it looks beautiful,” Gastman said.
“Street art,” he added, “is often immediately much more acceptable to the general public. It is prepared in advance in the artist’s studio, with images that are often more identifiable as opposed to a name that is written very stylistically.”
The show’s title dates back to the early 1980s, when graffiti artists, initially painting illegally on walls and subway cars, began to migrate to the galleries.
“I wanted to do a show to honor that and include some of the incredible early New York artists who were a part of that scene,” Gastman said.
Of course, the translation of such works from the urban environment into the white cube is never without difficulties.
“There are absolutely the absolute purists who never want to see graffiti or street art in a gallery,” Gastman admitted. “You can paint graffiti on a canvas or take a picture of it, but often that energy is lost. You can have someone spray your entire gallery and it can look great, but it will never feel the same as it does on the street.”
At the same time, however, there are also well-funded art collectors who detest street graffiti but spend large sums of money on artists who have started with the medium. Gastman feels a responsibility to educate them about the origins of this work and its connections to a globally illegal art that continues to this day, even as street art continues to invade the blue-chip art market.
“There are still people traveling around the world painting clean subways — and you’ll probably never see their work because the trains often don’t run,” Gastman said. “These people are risking their lives because they want to do it.”
Highlights of the show include the first-ever collaboration of longtime friends FUTURA2000 and Kenny Scharf. Her large-scale painting is being shown at New York’s Tony Shafrazi Gallery, along with a poster from her 1983 Two Man Exhibition. Prices for the works on display range from $1,400 for photographs to almost $300,000 for the most expensive paintings.
For street art fans on a budget, the new gallery will also include a well-stocked gift shop, which has been popular at previous exhibitions.
“It’s full of custom items that we’ve created, plus lots of great items direct from artists that are hard to come by, and just an incredible selection of books,” Gastman said.
There will also be two separate exhibition spaces, Beyond the Streets and a new concept called Control Gallery, which Gastman will run alongside creative agency and artist representation firm Icnclst and their CEO, Sky Gellatly.
“There are so many artists that we love that aren’t from graffiti and street art that we’d love to work with, but Beyond the Streets doesn’t make much sense as a platform for them,” Gastman said.
There will be separate entrances for the two outfits, but the interior spaces are contiguous, giving the gallery the opportunity to host exhibitions in both spaces, like the opening show. And there will be a joint quarterly print newspaper, Out of controldedicated to art and music content.
Dante Parel and Aurora Fisher-Kendrick will be the directors of Control, and Ozzie Jaurez, a young street performer featured in the opening show, has been hired as curator to attract emerging talent.
“It’s important to me to weave the younger artists’ stories into what we do,” Gastman said, admitting that it’s “so difficult” to do while continuing to nurture his long-standing relationships with giants of the scene .
“I don’t want to say I’m the grumpy old man who only cares about historical things, but I want to keep digging up the stories of graffiti and street art culture before they disappear,” he added. “Artists are getting older. Many of them die. Collections are ruined in the basement by floods and the like. It’s just so important to me to preserve the historical stories.”
“Post Graffiti” will be on display September 24 – October 22, 2022 at Control Gallery at Beyond the Streets, 434 N La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, California.
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