Hitting Graffiti & Street Artists Where it Hurt$ [UPDATE: Smear Arrested]

A Smear sticker in downtown LA last year (via flickr.com/johnwilliamsphd)

In what may be the most original tactic by a city to deter street artists and graffiti writers from using public space as free advertising, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is seeking a court injunction to bar street artist Cristian Gheorghiu from profiting from art bearing his telltale “tag.”

I’m not a fan of the state telling people what they can or cannot do in public but there’s no doubt that there has been a proliferation of street artists and graffiti writers with nothing on their minds but fame and fortune that are using public space as a way to “launch” their brand. My opinion is if these artists are simply using public space — that belongs to all of us — as a billboard to sell something, then they should have to pay for advertising like everyone else.

Does anyone remember the Shepard Fairey incident at the Houston and Bowery spot, where he was literally advertising his exhibition across town at the old Deitch Gallery space under the guise of a supposedly street art wall project. At the time, New York City’s buildings department said the mural violated zoning laws prohibiting advertising on the property.

The American Civil Liberties Union understandably calls the LA lawsuit an assault on artistic freedom. Let’s see how this turns out.

NOTE: Some people I’ve been talking to think that Smear is being targeted by the LA City Attny. because of stickers or other small works of street art but in reality it is because he was snagged as part of a quarter-mile-long tag by the LA river, which is mentioned in the LA Times article.

UPDATE: Smear was arrested Wednesday afternoon for a violation of a previous vandalism conviction, according to KTLA.

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