Look to the streets to experience cutting-edge visual art: Darlene G. Michitsch


Visitor columnist Darlene G. Michitsch is an affiliate professor of artwork heritage at Baldwin Wallace University. A native Clevelander, she has an abiding curiosity in neighborhood artists — earlier, current and future.

Northeast Ohio is wondrously awash in art institutions, from its esteemed museums to its pulsating gallery scene: The storied, century-previous Cleveland Museum of Art the renowned artists of the Cleveland School, relationship again to the late 19th century the city’s dominant part in the Federal Arts Undertaking of the WPA through the Good Melancholy.

All comprise a hallowed history in the visual arts.

This legacy expands, as Higher Cleveland rightfully boasts an active and committed community of graffiti artists. For the ideal experience of the region’s visible expression nowadays, glance to the streets.

As soon as conveniently reviled as the obscure and unlawful by-product of the disenfranchised, graffiti artwork gained intercontinental legitimacy in the 1980s, mainly through the work of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Emerging from New York City’s subway stations, both equally youthful artists achieved fast superstar in transcribing their road “writing” onto studio canvases.

Perfectly promoted and eminently marketable, the get the job done of Haring and especially Basquiat commanded superior costs in their respective shorter lifetimes. The value of their art has astronomically accelerated in latest decades on the secondary (auction) sector.

For instance, a 1984 untitled oil on canvas by Basquiat bought in 2017 for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s auction household in New York. Graffiti art has decisively become a valued commodity.

In the art environment, these commodification denotes final approbation. But it also operates the hazard of dulling the artist’s edge as marketability supersedes the information.

Graffiti art in Cleveland has not so acquiesced. For a long time, road writing has marred Cleveland’s city walls, with clusters in interior-town neighborhoods. But this peculiar calligraphy types the DNA of the bold murals that currently remodel abject places into performs of artwork.

Direct, poignant, sometimes whimsical, Cleveland graffiti artwork usually asserts its edge, in a wide variety of models, stating a myriad of items arguably, the finest artists are homegrown.

Foremost among the the Cleveland graffiti artists who have stayed the study course is Bob Peck, a city child who “cut his teeth” on the “street writing” randomly bedecking his Cleveland west aspect neighborhood.

To begin with intrigued, he immediately turned immersed in the so-called subculture, as a experienced artist deftly mastering the stencil and spray can.

Peck’s distinctive design, asynchronously rhythmic and intensely chromatic, has garnered mural commissions from “North Coast Auto” on East 185th Street to “Spectacular Vernacular” on Lakewood’s Madison Avenue. He is a regarded leader in Cleveland’s graffiti scene.

Always the city child enamored of road art, Peck presents back. He is an ardent supporter of and integral to Graffiti Heart, a non-revenue that facilitates artist commissions and delivers scholarships for underserved aspiring artists.

Of late, Peck has joined forces with regional Pop graffiti artist R!ch Cihlar. Performing as “Don’t Worry!” the duo has created amazing murals from East 79th Road to Westlake’s Crocker Park. “Don’t Stress!” held a significant exhibition in November 2021 at Baldwin Wallace University’s Fawick Gallery, which successfully elevated sizeable scholarship resources for Graffiti Heart.

Transcribed from brick partitions and corrugated steel containers to canvas and artifacts, this graffiti art was not simply materially commodified. Holding its edge, “Don’t Stress!” contributes to Cleveland’s at any time-increasing legacy in the visual arts by helping to ensure that upcoming generations of impressed artists with anything to say will “take to the streets.”

To partake of this legacy, carry on to seem to the streets.

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