Deitch is back, and it's a party.
Yesterday evening, gallery-goers in New York swarmed into Leila Heller Gallery for Jeffery Deitch's unofficial homecoming after his controversial stint as director of MOCA in Los Angeles. The exhibition, "Calligraffiti: 1984-2013" is something Deitch and Heller have had in the works since the 80s, a show that spotlights Middle Eastern graffiti and text-based artists like Nir Hod, eL Seed, LA2, and ROSTARR alongside American street art stars like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Keith Haring.
The opening included the usual characters you meet at a gallery and one model dressed in nude head-to-toe spandex. We all did a double take.
It became clear later in the evening that beige skin-tight apparel is not the new gallerina uniform when the street artist LA2 broke out the oil paints and began to decorate the model's body, starting with hearts around her nipples.
This was just after LA2 took a silver Sharpie to Leila Heller's behind and turned her black dress into a work of art. We left too soon, apparently, because later in the night two women stripped down to their underwear for full body paint. We can't make this shit up.
Outside of the spectacle, the works on display drew lines between the revolutionary street art movement in the Middle East today and the artists who "emerged from the economic and social turmoil of the '70s in New York," as Heller explains in the press release. "Calligraffiti" also includes earlier impulses towards the broad, abstract strokes of contemporary street art in the works of AbEx painters like Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly, and Lee Krasner. In the front of the gallery, LA2 created a multicolor installation of painted walls and objects, similar to Keith Haring's recently closed Pop Shop.
Deitch himself was missing from the show (at least we didn't spot him), but "Calligraffiti" bore his signature style nonetheless—Deitch's saving grace at MOCA was the blockbuster "Art in the Streets," after all. Also, the exhibition fits nicely with a trend of graffiti writers in Chelsea this summer. Last month, Jonathan LeVine Gallery hosted "10 Years of Wooster Collective" with all the big names in street art.
"Calligraffiti" is on view at Leila Heller Gallery until October 5, 2013.