2 Artists, 2 Coasts, Both in Jail for Graffiti

by Hrag Vartanian on April 26, 2011

Left, LA II, right, Revok. (images via &

As LA’s MOCA tries to give graffiti and street art their moment in the Southern California sun, in New York LA II, aka Angel Ortiz, and in Los Angeles, Revok, aka Jason Williams, are in jail for doing the art they love.

While LA II, who is best known as a collaborator of Keith Haring, has quietly languished at Riker’s Island prison, Revok’s arrest and subsequent sentencing has been accompanied by a vocal outcry from his comrades and fans, including Shepard Fairey, who issued a poster last week to raise money for his legal defense fund.

The debate about graffiti and street art and its role in a democratic and free society is sure to rage on as the artists associated with the art form continue to make waves by openly challenging vandalism laws. The whole phenomenon is strangely reminiscent of the emergence of hip hop in the 1980s and 90s, when artists (and their handlers) often parlayed criminal charges into more publicity and fame for the artist.

The largest question is do artists have — or should they have — a right to create art on public property or the property of others.

The Twitterverse has been very vocal about its anger regarding Revok’s arrest.

From a fellow graffiti writer, Saber:!/saberawr/status/62353021442588672

And some other commentary:!/VickiRaisens/status/62870894363672577!/jozephr/status/62645558392786946!/DESTROY213R/status/62622365376450560!/The7thLetter/status/62281382562504704

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  • Thanks for bringing this up Hrag. LAII is also in Art in the Streets, but it’s worth noting that there are writers and artists around the world who are locked up with excessive sentences. It’s too bad that not every one of them can be a posterboy for their injustice like Revok is becoming.

  • Den Hickey

    Well, what do you expect when your art is put on random buildings and structures that don’t belong to you?

    • fleiss

      Everyone should focus on the REAL criminals like wallstreet, Enron etc! Must I say more! Quit wasting our tax paying dollars !

    • Syracusedivercity

      I once had a dialogue about private property with a graffiti artist in Syracuse, he was a member of the Onondaga Nation, and he asked me the question WHO’s property is this? No white man in america should be talking about what does and doesn’t belong to him.

      • While I respect your comment, you could say the same about any nation. For instance, the Arabs only entered most Arab-majority countries 1,400 years ago, and Turks only 1,000 years ago. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of the present state we’re in though. Unless you are saying that there shouldn’t be private property at all, ever. That’s a different argument.

  • Celso

    FREE LA2!!!!!!!

  • Xavier Lopez

    Hulloh, I write a blog in Seattle, covering the Alternative Art Scene, here and I want to say that what is really happening, pure and simple is that this is a continuing attack, onslaught, what have you on alternative speech (read communication) it is the same attack that happened to independent, liberal newspapers, is happening to public television and radio, the internet and public access television–this is setting up so that there are as few outlets for non-proscribed points of view as possible–spread the word. Cheers!

    Here’s a link to my blog–check it out!

  • No + Face =

    What kind of justice system lets sex offenders and people with domestic violence charges out on bail that is less than that for a graffiti artist? And this isn’t that ignorant XIV/South Side/Bloods&Crips shit that idiots paint everywhere, this is a globally recognized and celebrated form of art. But in the eyes of our law enforcement this is apparently up in the ranks with murder. Anyone else see the problem here?

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