Unconventionally ‘Beautiful’

It’s not Picasso, it’s not Van Gogh and it’s more in your face than Dali — it’s “street.” Starting today, the USF Contemporary Art Museum will host the exhibit Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture. The exhibit features works by dozens of artists from across the country, though most hail from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Artists featured in the exhibit include Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Ryan McGinness and Clare E. Rojas. The exhibit also examines work from artists credited with influencing the birth of the “street” movement, including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Larry Clark.

The art is influenced less by the classics and more by the surroundings of the artists. Most have little to no formal training and honed their skills on the streets. That is not to say they are in any way bad — just different.

“They’ve got a huge audience of people — you know, skateboarders, graffiti writers, people who are into punk and independent rock music, hip-hop, etc. — and to millions — literally millions and millions — of young people, many of these artists are household names,” said Christian Strike, the exhibit’s curator.

He added that until now, though, they have operated pretty much under the radar as far as the mainstream art world is concerned.

The exhibit includes photography, sketches, doodles, sculptures and everything in between. The displays include things that will make you laugh, smile, scratch your head and gasp at first sight. All of it will make you think.

You can look at framed and matted photos of teenagers smoking and turn around to see numerous photos featuring both male and female genitalia. Then you can look to your left and see a giant painting of a pile of skulls done in cheery pastels.

The images do reach much more shocking levels, but there is also art that looks “mainstream.”There is also a display of album covers from a variety of bands ranging from Metallica to Public Enemy.

“A lot of people out there know (the bands), but they didn’t necessarily know that these artists designed (their album covers),” Strike said. “I wanted to show someone coming to this exhibit that this group has sort of operated somewhat anonymously in the mainstream for years.”

McGinness and Angela Boatwright, leading contemporary “street” artists, will both be in town for the opening weekend of the exhibit. They will join Strike today in MC 270 of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center at 10 a.m. for a symposium to discuss corporate sponsorship and how it affects art.

McGinness will also be signing copies of his new book, Installationview, tonight at 6 in the Contemporary Art Museum Store.

Beautiful Losers will run at the USF Contemporary Art Museum through Dec. 17 and is free to the general public. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays.