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Posted at 12:19 PM ET, 02/24/2006

In or Out? It Makes a Difference

By Julia Beizer

So I checked out "Wall Snatchers" last night. The new graffiti art exhibit had some high points, but I left the show wanting something more.

The exhibit features the work of six artists -- Bask, Eon, Mister Never, Nick Z, Tes One and the collective Faile. The artists hail from Boston, Florida, New York and D.C., but their work has been thrown up on buildings all over the world. They were given free rein to paint on the industrial-looking walls of the old Staples building in Georgetown and they left several large-scale paintings and stencil works. Even Borf, D.C.'s best-known graffiti artist as of late, made an appearance with a few stray words ("Bush Hates Borf," etc.), but without his trademark grinning face.

I've always been a huge fan of graffiti art and these big works were as good examples as any. I was particularly fond of the quirky arrows in the collaboration between Nick Z and Mister Never on one of the gallery's first walls. I also liked the Faile collective's "Lichtenstein-esque" pictures of women on painted backgrounds.

I came away thinking that these works had lost something when they were on inside walls. As the "tools of the trade" part of the exhibit  -- spray paint cans, markers and rollers, hung on the gallery's first wall -- shows, the level of detail these artists can create with short time, low lighting and basic tools is pretty amazing. The gallery's 10-foot walls seemed too small to capture all of the work that goes into one of these paintings. Graffiti like Borf's face on the Roosevelt Bridge sign makes the passer-by wonder how it got up there. For me, that's part of the magic of graffiti. I would have liked to see photographs of some of the artists' other works, some of the ones that have made it to continents far, far away.

Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran (the group that also brought us Frank Warren's PostSecret exhibit last year) has joined a number of U.S. galleries in welcoming these artists from outside the gallery world and given them an inside -- and legal -- space to display their work. I'm glad they did it, because the graffiti art on display is pretty fantastic, but I just wish I could have seen more than the few walls in the old Staples building could accomodate.

But I guess that's what Web sites are for. You can check out Bask, Faile, Mister Never, Nick Z and Tes One online.

So there were a bunch of people at yesterday's opening -- what did the rest of you think?

--Julia

By Julia Beizer  | February 24, 2006; 12:19 PM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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Comments

Julia,

did you see the graffiti analysis by FIFE, if you didn't here is the link to the site

http://www.ni9e.com/graffiti_analysis.php

Posted by: trace | February 25, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm suprised you didn't mention the artist fi5e and his work that was projected in two locations in the gallery, which I thought were the best things about the show and one of the most innovative new media arts projects in recent memory. Why not discuss the piece that stuck out the most in the show, if merely for the fact that it wasn't a traditional graffiti piece?

Posted by: louis | February 25, 2006 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I did see the fi5e piece and I definitely should have mentioned it above -- my bad. I haven't quite made up my mind about how I felt about it. I thought it was a fantastic intersection of new media and graffiti art. I can't even imagine the math it took to put that thing together. Other than that, though, I'm not sure I took anything else away from it. I'm definitely going to drop by the show again to check it out one more time when there aren't so many people around -- what was it about the fi5e piece that you all dug so much?

Posted by: Julia | February 26, 2006 9:06 AM | Report abuse

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