The kid at the front of the line had been waiting thirty hours for the preview of the Mr. Brainwash show to open and the queue now stretched down La Brea to the 99 cent store, a fitting endpoint for the 99 per centers that made up most of the crowd. Some kids were still paranoid from their stint at Occupy LA and wore bandanas to hide their faces as they crowded around the broken windows trying to get a look at MBW, or Mr. Brainwash, AKA Thierry Guetta, as he put the final touches on his show.
Like the Art in the Streets exhibition at MOCA, the Artshow 2011 by MBW didn't seem to have a beginning; you were just suddenly in the midst of it. But one big difference was that the MBW show was constantly in process: taggers were writing their names on the walls, floors, and even Mr. Brainwash pieces every time I visited the show. The security reprimanded none of the taggers for anything more than their style, and the few off limits pieces were behind chain link fences.
MBW had "donated" a large portion of the space for anyone to come and put up their street style art, effectively turning over a quarter of his solo show to other artists. There was no indication where his work left off and the street clusterfuck began, leaving most uninformed viewers thinking that it was just more Mr. Brainwash. And, by the false noblesse oblige of allowing the tagging contagion to spread freely throughout the show, he got even more unpaid assistants to finish up his work and fill up the space.
In this mix it was difficult to distinguish who had actually done what. Some pieces were obviously by MBW because they appeared to be lifted straight from his 2008 show, like the huge Campbell's spray paint cans and fucked up LAPD cruisers. Others, like some sick wall pieces and the dope animal sculptures made of old tires were left unattributed. Still, plenty of individual artworks were obviously by Mr. Brainwash because of his Warholian fascination with celebrity; a portrait of Michael Jackson with his hair made up of 78-RPM records was a particularly outstanding example of MBW at his slim finest. However, most of Mr. Brainwash's work was only marginally good enough to be considered generic street art, showing none of the painting skills or strength that make a legend of true Graf artists like Saber.
A whiff of shit can ruin any banquet, and inane slogans like "May the Art Be With You" spray painted on a wall of old tires and the hundreds of gallons of paint randomly splattered everywhere only served to diminish the most impressive installations. A life size elephant sculpture stomping on an oversized can of spray paint while surrounded by living room furniture had its sly reference to Banksy somewhat wasted in the self indulgent mess. But the ultimate irony was that the art on the street outside the building was pretty much as good as the Street Art inside, making it unclear who was getting handjobbed here; Mr. Brainwash or the people waiting in the merch line.
Apparently I wasn't the only one put off by the painterly hedonism; as I walked through yet another cloud of aerosol paint, holding my breath and trying not to get tagged, I was joined by a kid, spray paint cans rattling in his jacket. "Hey dude", he said to me, "Where's the gift shop? I gotta get the fuck outta here."