Paul Johnson Calderon reflects on the implications of the ‘street artist’ Same tagging a Jeff Koons in New York
By now, most of us have seen the video of my friend, the artist Christopher ‘Same’ Johnson, tagging the highly publicised Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The incident took place on the 19th October in front of a stunned crowd of Koons’ following but can, as some dubbed it, we simply write this off as an “act of vandalism” or was it, instead, an example of “sheer performance art genius”? Either way, it certainly had people talking.
I spoke with a number of people and got somewhat mixed sentiments, but the overarching notion was that Same’s ambush – which sought to honour Peter Pan Posse (PPP) crew – was nothing short of brilliance.
I encountered the PPP when they took me under their wing when I first came to the city and before graffiti began its dissent into a trendy bleep on the art world’s radar. With notable members such as The Mirf and Cat Marnell, Fat Jew and Same himself, they now have a cult following. This has been due in part to the notoriety that social media has given them and in turn they’ve become larger than life.
Is ‘street art’ the ‘new impressionism’? I ask that question with a hint of irony. Graffiti or more politely, street art, has been around since cave dwellers first figured out how to make dye out of rocks and minerals in order to depict their surroundings. In a sense, it is the most primitive, inherent form of self-expression that has spanned millennia; and, in a way, these artists are still making a statement about their surroundings.
But what exactly is that statement? Are we over thinking an act of vandalism, or are we witnessing a revolutionary new movement of art? In my opinion, what Same did was phenomenal. As the art world attempts to appropriate ‘street art’, what better way to respond to their snobbery than tagging a Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney?
With Same’s arrest in New York, I can’t help but think of him as an art martyr who is willing to go to great lengths to get his message across. Viva la Revolution!
Paul Johnson Calderon is a New York based designer, stylist, editor and writer. He starred in the 2010 reality series ‘High Society’ with Tinsley Mortimer and was educated at Deerfield Academy and Trinity College. Follow him on Twitter at @ThatPJCCat.
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