Deitch Takes Another Look at ‘Calligraffiti’ for New York Gallery
by Carol Kino, The ArtsBeat, New York Times
Last month Jeffrey Deitch resigned as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Although he won’t step down immediately, the art world is abuzz with rumors about what he’ll do next. Perhaps a clue to his future interests may be found in “Calligraffiti: 1984-2013,” an upcoming show at the Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea opening Sept. 5.
It will explore the relationship between graffiti and calligraphy with the work of nearly 50 artists, from Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Keith Haring and his protégé “LA II” (as Angel Ortiz is known). Many of the artists are Middle Eastern, including Shirin Neshat and Hossein Zenderoudi, and several are street artists, like the French-Tunisian star eL Seed.
The show essentially updates “Calligraffiti,” an exhibition that he and Ms. Heller collaborated on in 1984, back when he was a Citibank art adviser with a passion for street art, and she was an Upper East Side dealer specializing in art from the Middle East, primarily Iran.
Curated by Mr. Deitch, the 1984 show juxtaposed graffitists like Fab Five Freddy with Mr. Zenderoudi and modernist scrawlers like Cy Twombly and Jean Dubuffet. (Mr. Deitch came up with the idea, he said, while he was between apartments and sleeping in Ms. Heller’s gallery.)
This time, Mr. Deitch served as Ms. Heller’s sounding board, rather than curator. But he is excited about the new possibilities for street art offered by the turmoil in the Middle East, especially as exemplified by eL Seed, who started as a street artist and is now working on a major commission from the Qatar Museums Authority to paint a series of tunnels in Doha.
“He is in a very genuine way working in this fusion between a calligraphic technique coming out of Arabic script,” Mr. Deitch said, “and an awareness of international graffiti language. When we did the show originally in 1984, there wasn’t anyone like this.” But now, he added, “there is this actual fusion of the two traditions.”
In the catalog he wrote that, ”Graffiti has become an important part of the imagery that has defined the Arab Spring.” While New York’s early taggers had to rely on subway cars to carry their messages, he added, “today new communications platforms like Instagram and YouTube have given street art a new resonance,” instantly communicated around the world.
Mr. Deitch is already at work on several independent projects beyond the one or two he intends to complete for the Museum of Contemporary Art. He would not talk about them until he had “concrete plans with the dates, space.” But yes, he confirmed, they will be in New York.
Via Leila Heller Gallery and The ArtsBeat, New York Times