Downtown LA BLU MOCA Whitewash Protest // 01.03.2011 from jesse trott on Vimeo.

Even if LA MOCA thinks the Blu Mural Censorship controversy is going to go away, it isn’t. The institution has not responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comments on the issue or an unedited interview on the topic of the Blu mural censorship. And now, LA Times‘s Culture Monster reports on the latest action by some street artists, including Chicano artist/Vietnam War veteran Leo Limon and Joey Krebs (aka The Phantom Street Artist), equipped with projectors at the MOCA Geffen Contemporary wall:

A crew of street and graffiti artists, together with a handful of war veterans, gathered Monday night in the dark, empty parking lot of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo to stage a guerrilla protest performance against the museum’s director, Jeffrey Deitch.

I particularly like this quote by Carol Well, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics:

She said she considers Deitch’s actions as censorship. “Outrageous is the first word that comes to mind,” she said. “I think he was absolutely wrong. He was trying to do an edgy exhibit, hires an artist known to be edgy. Pushing the boundaries is the very definition of a street artist — so what did he expect?”

Good question, but we know the answer as, according to a leak email by censored street artist Blu, Deitch “would have preferred a piece that ‘invites people to come in the museum’.” In other words, an ad billboard.

Some of the messages projected on the wall last night were “Dump Deitch,” “Give us back our walls!,” “War is over?,” “Peace Now!,” and “We ♥ Blu.”

Culture Monster also reports the group will soon be posting an online video from their night of protest.

The link to the video is here (and also posted above).

Photos by Culture Monsters’s Deborah Vankin

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

13 replies on “Artists & Veterans Protest Deitch at MOCA Geffen [UPDATED]”

  1. If Bietchass had had it painted over for simply not being all that good… I could understand that. Not quite approve, but I could understand. This, however… is ludicrous. Of course, if local artists wanted to really hit LA MOCA and Dietch they would organize a boycott of the institution. No one attends, no one donates or sells them work.

    1. I think if he painted over it just because he didn’t like it then that would be just as disturbing. The director, and I guess curator (do we know if he is formally the curator of the show?), commissions a piece and can’t decide if he likes it until it’s pretty much done, and in the process doesn’t ask for sketches or anything? Doesn’t that just seem strange for someone in that position?

  2. Thank you for posting the video. I am a fan of Blu’s work, and have been following his career for years. However, the response to the whitewashing — especially the LID graffiti — is much more compelling than his mural. The convergence of war veterans, activists, and street and graffiti artists at LA MoCA is fortunate for the artist community and neighborhood residents as a whole.

    However, at this point, I still have trouble seeing Deitch’s decision to paint over the mural as one of censorship. For me, the whitewashing is an example of poor organization, leadership, and planning on the part of the museum, but not censorship. What was Deitch expecting of Blu? Did he ask for preliminary sketches? Did he outline what the museum expected of the artist and the mural?

    As a former museum employee, it has been my experience that the ultimate responsibility falls on the institution to define the terms of the agreement between institution and artist. If the museum wants the artist to address X, Y, and Z, then the museum must spell it out beforehand. When a museum does not outline in a letter of agreement or contract what the institution expects from the artist, program participant, or guest speaker, the museum gets itself into trouble.

    However, I also think Blu is partly responsible for the mess he found himself in. Did he submit preliminary sketches? Before he committed his time and energy, did he discuss his vision of the mural, and did he define what he was willing to do and what he wasn’t willing to do? Did he discuss financial compensation? Unless the artist contractual cements his terms in writing, he surrenders his power and control.


    1. Brendan, Thanks for chiming in but perhaps you haven’t been following the debate very closely as much of what you’ve mentioned has already been disclosed by the artists, even if MOCA continues to be mum.

      There were no preliminary sketches requested and none shown. Blu had already worked with Deitch, so there was already a working relationship between the two and we can assume that they had an agreement based on experience.

      Also, this mess would’ve been avoided if MOCA, and more specifically Deitch, had done its/his job. Which should have been to shepherd the project through the appropriate meetings with the community, curators, etc. and then proceeded to work with the artist to bring it to completion. Once a project is realized and someone whitewashes it because of a reason that is not clear, and then refuses to answer simple questions (not to mention avoiding questions all together) then it is suspicious.

      Censorship is, according to Wikipedia, the “suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.” In this case the censor is Deitch and MOCA. They have removed material they found objectionable after the fact. Sure they have the legal right to do it, but their reasoning based on its proximity to the war memorial is bogus. Deitch has not said he found it to be an inferior mural.

  3. cen·sor
       /ˈsɛnsər/ Show Spelled[sen-ser] Show IPA
    an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.
    any person who supervises the manners or morality of others.
    an adverse critic; faultfinder.
    (in the ancient Roman republic) either of two officials who kept the register or census of the citizens, awarded public contracts, and supervised manners and morals.
    (in early Freudian dream theory) the force that represses ideas, impulses, and feelings, and prevents them from entering consciousness in their original, undisguised forms.

  4. Where are there any veterans? Ten f*cking hipsters showed up. Big f*cking deal. Thats not a protest.– that a full bathroom.

    These pieces create this false aura of rebelliousness over a facile, shitty excuse for an art work. This has all the rebelliousness of a Pepsi ad. War= Bad. Yeah, no sh*t.

  5. Deitch never was one to censor. He’s taking his new job seriously and was man enough to make the decission to be civil to his neighbors – which earned my respect.
    After reading all the angles, this is no longer a story. It all makes perfect sense – just another day.
    Do you not have anything better to do ?
    This really is boring now.

    1. Deitch was never one to censor? According to who? He just did. Civil to which neighbors? You obviously haven’t been listening to the anti-war veterans and the neighbors haven’t been complaining. Deitch has been dodging questions and the issues remain until he is man enough to answer questions directly.

  6. Don’t they actually mean “give us back YOUR walls”, not “OUR walls”? And give them back.. or what? We’ll project some text on your wall for a few minutes once in a while?

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