Exploring The Power Of Street Art With The Legendary Roger Gastman

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I know Roger Gastman from his magazine “While You Were Sleeping.” They did an article about me sometime in the early 2000s. But more than that, we were always sort of in the same orbit. When I was a kid, skateboarding was basically illegal and, on top of that, my friends and I were writing graffiti — throwing up tags wherever we could.

If you were a skateboarder in New York, you also had a tag. That’s kind of what we grew up doing. There was this whole world of us, at that time, who were skating and creating graffiti. Roger and I were both in that orbit. It’s a pretty big shared experience to have.

Roger started as a graffiti writer and then sort of became a pre-internet node — the one man who knew everyone in the scene. In a post-internet world, he’s parlayed that into becoming the foremost expert on this entire culture. He was a consulting producer on Exit Through The Gift Shop, he’s authored and edited books and magazines, he’s curated museum shows. And I have to say, he’s done a fantastic job sharing this world we both grew up in with the general public.

I remember there was an installation art piece by the artists Twist, Reas, and ESPO called “Street Market” at Deitch Projects, back in 2000 — this gigantic, massive installation — and when I saw it I thought, “these guys have evolved their art into fine art. It demands to be recognized both as a creative movement and as a counterculture.”

That’s the spirit of what Roger was getting at during his widely acclaimed show “Beyond the Streets” over the summer. In many ways, it was the extension of “Street Market” and 2011’s “Art in the Streets” at MOCA. Roger is showing the art form and how it’s evolved and grown and deserves to be taken seriously but also mixing in its outlaw roots. People often don’t see the history and heritage of what these artists do. The show is very much his chance to fix the record to talk about the rich past the form has. It’s educational and it also charts the evolution of these kids who started 20-30 years ago with cans of spray paint, running from the cops, and have now made a major impact on the art world.

At the end of the day, it’s a vital look at the history of an art form that people have been buzzing about for decades now. The show may tour, so look out for it, but if you want a better baseline into this scene and why it matters, check our conversation above.

Uproxx

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