by Rafael Schacter. Lund Humphries, June 2018. 224p. Ill. ISBN 9781848222366 (h/c), $69.99.
Reviewed January 2019
Street to Studio, by Rafael Schacter, explores a range of artists working in what the author has dubbed "intermural art." This term, per the author, "literally means 'art in between the walls'" and denotes "work not simply emerging from inside the walls...or from outside them." It is a practice of art-making that exists in between the tensions of traditional gallery art and an art-making that finds its inspiration and spirit in the city streets (i.e. graffiti or street art). Schacter is quick, and correct, to note, however, that this type of art and art-making isn't a new occurrence, and this book isn't an attempt to provide an historical overview. Thus, while various historical figures are absent--such as Rammellzee, Basquiat, or Dondi White--we are presented instead with the works of forty highly engaging and diverse contemporary artists who largely came of age in the 1980s and after.
All the artists chosen for this book have their roots in some form of urban art, some roots being stronger than others. These roots range from something as simple as using a can of spray paint as a tool of choice, to being active participants in the world of illegal graffiti. In some ways, this book is taking a different look at a kind of practice and outlook first explored in the landmark exhibit and film Beautiful Losers, from 2004 (Barry McGee is the lone artist appearing in both). However, while Beautiful Losers placed as much importance on the social cultures surrounding this in-between art, Street to Studio largely eschews this approach, instead focusing almost exclusively on individual artists and their works. This difference of approach is in many ways explicative of the extent to which both graffiti and street art have become normalized, even celebrated, in the past decade and a half. This is not to suggest that Schacter is presenting another collection of not-really-outsider art, but rather that this book is a useful example of how graffiti and practices of urban expression have become active inspirators in the telling of the contemporary art narrative.
This publication is profusely illustrated with high-quality reproductions of color works, as well as notes to the introduction. While this book is certainly an interesting and useful take on the subject, it does suffer from a tone that some might feel is inaccessible, which is ironic given the popular and communal spirit of graffiti. The language gravitates towards the academic, and this book would be a welcome addition to academic libraries serving undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in art, art history, visual culture, urban studies, and hip-hop studies, but would also, given its topic, be welcome in libraries serving the general public.