While we were on tour, I really underestimated Cincinnati. I was thinking, "great, we've got a day off in Cincinnati of all places" but as it turned out, there was really some cool stuff to see there. The museum of Contemporary Art in Cincy (or Cinty, as I saw it printed once) was hosting an exhibit on street art that I would have liked to have spent about another hour or two walking through. It chronicled 'street art' loosely defined as art made by people outside of the normal confines of the art world, mostly with a kind of DIY ethic. Think Basquiat, Spike Jonze, Shep Fairey, skateboard decks, graphitti, etc. and you have the basic gist of the exhibit. It wound its way from photojounralism of street punks and skate kids and Run DMC, to skateboard graphics, custom sneakers, hong kong designer toys, poster art, home-made video documentary and beyond and it was the single biggest and best collection of all the kinds of spontaneous creativity that I find so inspiring. The Dog Town guys certainly couldn't have thought that their skate decks, sketched on with magic markers would one day end up in a museum, and it's the fact that they created something beautiful IN SPITE of that, that makes looking at those objects so inspiring.

I got to see several hundred skateboards, rows of album covers and cases full of zines, many of which were not ever designed to be objects of art, but have nonetheless become such by virtue of their creators' ability to create out of necessity. So much of the art I find inspiring is from-the-hip, stenciled on the wall of a tunnel or stuck to the back of a stop sign, but recently there's been a weird shift with all of this stuff that really became even more obvious with this show.

There's a point at which diy street art stops being that and starts being the gaudy, commercialism that it is usually railing against. If you take something like the Obey campaign, it has a fresh audacity to it at first because it attempts to create a street-level brand awareness of a non-brand. Well, Obey has become a brand now, with commerically available products and a whole slew of immitators and other hanger's-on who use the iconography of the Obey campaign to sell sneakers and hoodies. I used to think Obey posters and stickers here and there were really special because they represented a visible growth of the viral power of word of mouth--it represented people spreading art for no other reason than to share it. Now, I see several Obey posters and stickers EVERY DAY because there was a Shep Fairey show in town and you know, it's become just like any other brand. Public space is now fighting for clarity from multiple sides--from the advertising mooks who see every blank wall as an opportunity for 'impressions' to psuedo-commercial art campaigns to street-advertising that tries to pass itself off as street art (Echo stencils anyone?) to graph writers who have nothing more important to add to the world than multiple scrawled copies of their name.

I saw some amazing graphitti in Toronto, and some amazing street art at this exhibit and there's lots of stuff in Atlanta to still get excited about (Slumber Inc, Takio, etc) but when the lines are crossed, a cool idea like Obey can get real annoying, real fast. Let's blast these Giant stickers and posters out of the ATL and make room for the next generation of outlaw artists. There's only so much room.