Last Thursday January 13, there was a panel discussion at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles titled “How Does Street Art Humanize Cities?” Organized with Zócalo, the event featured Fowler Museum curator Patrick Polk, co-curator of MOCA’s forthcoming street art exhibition, Aaron Rose, street artist Retna, and artist and curator Man One. The panel was moderated by Los Angeles Times arts reporter Jori Finkel.

A view of the Fowler panel last Thrusday. (image via LA Raw) (click to enlarge)

To everyone’s surprise the topic of the Blu mural whitewash wasn’t even discussed, though a new protest group, LA Raw, handed out condoms branded with MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch’s name on them to remind those in attendance that the erasure of artist Blu’s mural is not forgotten. One source told us that he estimates 80% of the audience to the Fowler event received one of those protest condoms as they walked in and additional condoms were placed around the venue.

But, surely there must have been people in the audience eager to know what the panelists thoughts of Deitch’s single-handed decision to whitewash a mural? It turns out there was so we caught up with one attendee, who asked to remain anonymous, about his perspective on the panel:

It was remarkable that the panel went off without a single mention of the Blu whitewash. There were some of us in the audience with hands raised and questions ready but the Q&A was limited to 4 or 5 questions and was ended quickly. This despite the fact that one artist and one curator from Art in the Streets were on the panel. And Deitch was sitting in the audience.

It was a hot topic at the reception afterwards, however.

My take on the panel was that it was a very general discussion on the state of Street Art, with special emphasis made on Graffiti and Los Angeles since the two artists on the panel are LA graff guys.

The panelists had no real reason to put a lot of focus on the censorship – two are directly involved in the show and have not to date made any statements. The moderator has expressed a pro-Deitch bias in her LA Times columns on the subject. That’s where I thought the Q&A would come in, but it seemed like the organizers were in a hurry to end it and get the cocktail reception started (which lasted longer than the panel discussion incidentally). I talked to a bunch of people afterward who were surprised that the subject did not come up — that’s actually why they said they went — to see some sparks fly.

It does not appear that questions/questioners were pre-screened since they went around with microphones and picked people who had questions … We were there with our hands up but were not called on for questions by the two assistants.

From what I’ve been hearing the group hasn’t finished protesting censorship and they plan to continue making sure that the Blu incident doesn’t fall into the memory hole.

Ben Davis of Artinfo also spoke to the group and published an interview with the protesters, where they mention that they will also be protesting the upcoming visit by Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, who was responsible for the censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video in the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition, and they will “link the censorship at the Smithsonian with the censorship at MOCA.”

They explain to Davis:

Although LA Raw was initially provoked into action following the whitewashing of Blu’s mural at MOCA, as artists, activists, and others committed to free expression, we oppose any art censorship and therefore are involved in organizing the upcoming protest at the Biltmore.

For more updates from LA Raw, you can become a fan of their Facebook page or follow their evolving blog.

All images via LA RAW, used with permission

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Hrag Vartanian

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

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