Nov 30, 2011

REVIEW I Beautiful Losers, Alex Baker, Aaron Rose, Christian Strike, New York: Iconoclas, 2005

Alex Baker, Beautiful Losers,  New York: Iconcolas, 2005.
The book I read was entitled Beautiful Losers.  This book was a collection of personal and biographical essays about various street artist and their rise to success in the contemporary art world.  Its purpose was to illustrate the importance of bringing an exhibit of street art into a museum atmosphere.   Beautiful Losers was meant to take beautiful artwork done by a mystery artist and highlight that person’s talent, giving them an identity to the art world and society.  Most people who run a museum are in a higher class of society and do not have an appreciation for an artist who may not have an education (such as several of the artist from the essays).   Yet, the crowd that museums attract can relate to the pieces of street art being displayed because they see street art everyday.  By showing the essays and background story of the different artist, the book is able to convey a sense of understanding between the reader and the artist writing their story. 

Shepard Fairey,Street Installation, Tokyo,2001    

I thought the message of the story was well conveyed, especially by using the personal experiences of the artist themselves from the exhibit.  I do not believe there is a better way to show the contemporary aspect of street art than to allow the artist to explain how they made it, the reasoning behind it, and why they love what they do.   One of the most interesting aspects of the book was that it did not hold any information back, even right from the beginning.  In the first essay, by Aaron Rose who also happened to be one of the exhibition curators, there were parts that touched on his first art experience at The Art Center in Pasadena where he had to design posters for “”Partnership for a Drug Free America”.  Rose, however, felt hypocritical drawing them because he was doing lots of drugs himself.   This is just one instance where the artist let out any and all information. The artists also write about their arrest and police encounters, skating and trespassing, and felony charges.  It is stated that most of the artist from the street art movement have done (and do) illegal activities such as these.  Stating this in a book about a museum exhibit is brave, but necessary to understand the affect and emotion of the artwork.  This is all very apparent throughout the book, as much of the artwork is pictured. 

Ed Templeton, Scotty in the Suburbs,1999 c-print

Street art is something that adds to the contemporary world because it appeals to the common man.  One of the styles touched on in the book was about graffiti.  This is a style of street art that everyone is able to see and appreciate.  Even if it is illegal, most of the time a graffiti painting on a wall is of something that everyone would recognize or a theme that most can relate to.  It is also important to note that most of the time a viewer will not know who the artist is, yet they will still admire their work.  This ties back to the underlying reason Beautiful Losers even exist: to take street art, a form that the common man and woman recognize, and place it in a museum for all to enjoy. 

Beautiful Losers is a book that anyone can enjoy because of the artwork and pictures, as well as the stories and how one can relate to them.  I would recommend it not only to anyone interested in contemporary art, but anyone who wants to learn about art in general and a style that we witness on a daily basis. 

-- Amanda Roland


  1. Really glad someone got to this book (the movie is really amazing as well), but i think saying this book is only about street art is missing the bigger picture, since it also focuses on people like Ed Templeton, Harmony Korine, and Mike Mills who are not really part of the the street art movement.

    -Brock Caron

  2. I agree with Brock this book is not just about street art. This book should be re-read. Also this is one of my favorite movies it always gets me pumped to make something.

    -Jarrad Taylor

  3. This is really neat, i don't know much on street art, but this is certainly something I would like to look into reading! I also have to say, just by going through and looking at Ed Templeton's work, he doesn't seem to really be "street art," I also wish you had written more, this is so short and it doesn't give enough information. At least, that's how I feel.