BWW Review: THIS IS MODERN ART with DCPA's OFF-CENTERNowadays, you can argue anything is art. But I've never questioned if graffiti was. The bigger question is where it belongs, examined in DCPA Off-Center's latest feature.
This is Modern Art is a fairly new work, premiering just a few years ago through Chicago company Steppenwolf's young adult series. The play, written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin, is based on actual events in 2010 that led to a costly sandblasting of a 50-foot wall outside Art Institite of Chicago's new wing. The vandals were caught on camera but never captured.

Directed by playwright Goodwin, the one-act follows a small graffiti crew called Look Over Here as they attempt that feat. There's leader Seven (Robert Lee Hardy) and his girlfriend/lookout Selena (Chloe McLeod) along with Dose (Jake Mendes) and JC (Marco Robinson). John Jurcheck and Brynn Tucker play various roles throughout. The acting is solid and realistic, bringing a modern millennial dynamic to the show.

BWW Review: THIS IS MODERN ART with DCPA's OFF-CENTERA standout is Nicholas Renaud's set design, with graffiti art by Robin Munro and projection design by Topher Blair. The Jones is transformed into a warehouse, with sliding garage doors and a grungy vibe. Spray cans lit with color were a neat feature.
The play brings the kind of energy you get from one of those heist movies. You're pulled into the planning, and you get why they're doing it.
They even show you how, with labeled spray cans, front-facing backpacks and why you should keep a mustard packet in your shoe. . For the crew, graffiti is a more powerful statement than just vandalism. And if you do it in the right place, you're heard. That stems from a conversation Seven has at a party, where he has to argue why art like his isn't inside museum walls. If it won't go inside, they'll just do it outside.
BWW Review: THIS IS MODERN ART with DCPA's OFF-CENTERBut it wasn't until after the show that I delved into my platform on graffiti art. Through a heated discussion on the car ride home, my fiance and I argued whether graffiti really is art, or if it's just a crime. When does vandalism become art, and does there need to be a message behind it for it to count?
We're still battling about that one.
This is Modern Art plays the Jones Theatre with DCPA's Off-Center through April 15. Tickets and info at

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From This Author Chris Arneson

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