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LOS ANGELES — Last Saturday a group exhibition opened at Dalton Warehouse, a gallery located in the middle of an art studio complex in South Central Los Angeles. During the opening, four individuals who at first appeared to be part of the general art audience proceeded to cover their mouths with bandanas and then splash the gallery walls, exhibited artwork, and bystanders with red paint. They started from the back of the space and ended by running out of the gallery and onto the street. The individuals were originally identified by curate.la in an Instagram story as three males and one female, all relatively young. None of the individuals involved in the act claimed open allegiance to a protesting group, nor has any specific group taken responsibility for the action.

South Central is one of many neighborhoods in Los Angeles experiencing ongoing gentrification, as well as a backlash of protests against both the cultural and real estate shift that comes with gentrification. As with many other neighborhoods, of which Boyle Heights has received the most media attention, the protesters in South Central highlight the appearance of artists, art galleries, and coffee shops, among other things, as the first sign of further development.

The incident on Saturday was not the first time Dalton Warehouse has been a target. Last year activists protested another art opening, though in that instance no property was vandalized. The protesters did, however, hold signs that said “Gringo Get Out.” In another highly publicized incident in late 2016 investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department as a possible hate crime, the Boyle Heights-based Nicodim Gallery was spray-painted with the words “fuck white art.”

Elizabeth Blaney speaks at the press conference on the steps of Nicodim Gallery in Boyle Heights, November 5 (photo by Matt Stromberg for Hyperallergic)

The artist-run Boyle Heights gallery 356 Mission has been at the center of anti-gentrification protests and, in late March, it announced its decision to shut down this May. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, co-founder Wendy Yao said, “We have a lot of reasons for why we are leaving … Doing the space was always a labor of love and was always really hard on both of us. And the protests added to this weight.” The decision echoes that of PSSST, another Boyle Heights gallery that shut down in early 2017, attributing the move to “constant attacks.”

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, Dalton Warehouse responded, “Right now we all feel it’s best to not comment.”

Over the weekend, curate.la ran a poll as an Instagram story, providing a brief summary of the Dalton Warehouse incident and asking followers to vote between two options: “IT’S FINE” and “NOT OKAY.” The end result was 890 votes for “IT’S FINE” (56%) and 707 votes for “NOT OKAY” (44%).

Defend South Central, a local activist group that has concentrated most of its efforts on fighting police brutality and immigration reform, did not respond to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

Yesterday evening the community activist group Defend Boyle Heights sent Hyperallergic a statement (reproduced in full below) titled “To the brave, faceless militants of South Central regarding the Dalton Warehouse offensive.” “Defend Boyle Heights formally recognizes and congratulates the faceless, tactical militants who initiated the offensive on the Dalton Warehouse space,” they write. “The people understand that the livelihood of working class, immigrant, undocumented, black and brown communities matter more than the Dalton Warehouse hipster’s right to offer another session of half-baked art made by artists who think their whitewalls matter more than black, brown, and working class lives.” The letter concludes: “It seems it would be safer for the Warehouse to do what 356 S. Mission Rd., PSSST, and other galleries like UTA are doing: pick up your shit and get the fuck out of our neighborhoods.”

Below is the statement reproduced in full:

To the brave, faceless militants of South Central regarding the Dalton Warehouse offensive

Two weeks ago when 356 S. Mission Rd., Gavin Brown Enterprises, Laura Owens, and Ooga Booga formally announced their departure from Boyle Heights, we vigorously declared 2018 as “the year of escalation and transformation. More and more galleries will feel this proclamation. More and more galleries will close their doors. This is an undeniable fact. But we will not rest on this inevitability.”

Defend Boyle Heights formally recognizes and congratulates the faceless, tactical militants who initiated the offensive on the Dalton Warehouse space. We join the chorus on social media social media and the streets who thanked these militants for fighting for their community. The people understand that the livelihood of working class, immigrant, undocumented, black and brown communities matter more than the Dalton Warehouse hipsters right to offer another session of half-baked art made by artists who think their whitewalls matter more than black, brown, and working class lives. The people also understand the role that hipster amenities like arts initiatives play in gentrification:  Art spaces move in, rents go up, tenants and local businesses are evicted, and capital washes away the barrio. These conversations have been had, so why do the Dalton hipsters continue pretending to be ignorant of their role in gentrifying South Central?

We lastly offer, in good faith, a critique to the militants: a strategic offense against gentrifying amenities are necessary, but they must be premised on building autonomous power for the people. What is the follow up? Where does South Central turn next in order to build the disciplined, militant army of anti-gentrification fighters that it needs? Such a premise must exist if we wish to sustain our resistance against gentrification in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, we faithfully urge more people to heed the call to Defend Boyle Heights, Defend South Central and beyond.

For these reasons we assert: Dalton Warehouse, you are not ready for the wrath of the community of South Central. This is the year of escalation. The new anti-gentrification activists are bolder, disciplined and more militant. It seems it would be safer for the Warehouse to do what 356 S. Mission Rd., PSSST, and other galleries like UTA are doing: pick up your shit and get the fuck out of our neighborhoods.

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32 replies on “Demonstrators Splash Red Paint Inside LA Gallery in Apparent Protest of Gentrification”

  1. If no one is claiming responsibility for the attack, how can we know that the vandals are even locals? Seems like a DBH ploy to garner press for their anti-white ‘activist’ military…

  2. Any cause that destroys art is on the Nazi-Communist spectrum. An irony is that many of those purporting to serve art are on that same spectrum, stridently demanding that the only function of art is propaganda.

  3. this is so sad. if the practice of and access to living a life in art were not itself so elitist this would not be happening.

  4. Acknowledging that the issue of gentrification and the relationship of the creative class to that process is complicated means you’re a racist? According to the initial Instagram post, that’s the case…and yet, to those of us not blinded by adolescent ideology, the issue is undeniably complex. So long as these protestors insist on willfully denying reality and not providing thoughtful alternatives, they’re no better than the goobers on the far right who deny climate change or spout racist conspiracy theories. The two extremes deserve each other. Let’s just hope a reasonable center can hold.

    1. Ha! The reasonable center can continue clapping at their own creative farts while children rot in the gutters. I would much prefer the blindness of adolescence than the blindness of the age of majority.

      1. Yikes. Well, on with your brave, anarchic new world, then. I hope your puerile vision feeds all the children of the world, truly, but I won’t go all in on that bet.

        1. Oh please. Yes, opposing gentrification is soooo Orwellian. Meanwhile, you and the rest of the reasonable center continue to enable violence against the most vulnerable. But art! and painting! and soft sculpture! What a complex vision you have. You must be an artiste. Oh sorry, creative classist.

  5. Does this mean that if the art isn’t on black velvet that these artists who are all of various backgrounds become “white”?

  6. What a crock of shit. So attacking business trying to improve the neighborhood is considered a right and valid? How about fighting for rent control and forming business co-ops that would give the people some power and control over their lives. Tearing down businesses that are improving neighborhoods and lives is not constructive.

    1. I know plenty of artists, my wife included, and I would never consider them gentry. They are just trying to find space to make their art in peace.

  7. If somebody purposefully threw paint on my exhibited work I would beat the living shit out of them.

  8. Artists are associated with the beginnings of gentrification only because they’re desperately seeking inexpensive space for a low-income profession, so its tragic and divisive to target artists or art works. Galleries may be better capitalized but some are also marginal. The trendy gentry follow and the affordable housing crisis is very real. In NYC even some families with a low-income working parent are becoming homeless because affordable living space can’t be found and high rents have stretched their budgets until they broke down. Landlords can’t really be expected not to want to maximize their investment, and gigantic investors have moved in to bid up prices. So its essential that artists and other low income workers work together to strengthen rent stabilization (which has become toothless) and tenant protections. AIR and commercial rent stabilization of some sort is increasingly needed. I don’t know the political situation in L.A. and I hesitate to second-guess desperate gestures, but solidarity rather than divisiveness seems essential. One can admire the “creative destruction” of capitalism but still want to regulate its brutal edges.

  9. Ha after reading over the previous comments, you really wonder why a neighborhood may want to keep you out?

  10. Really surprised that the fight isn’t with developers/landlords who do the actual work of gentrifying instead of galleries that would hardly survive escalating rents either.

    1. So that’s how the creative class undermines itself. The rents wouldn’t escalate if they weren’t in that neighborhood to begin with. The creative class should also be invested in anti-gentrification in the places they already live and work.

  11. Oh, what the heck I thought it was an ‘art piece’…..ah dear. Such is the state of the ‘art.’

  12. What idiots. This is a stupid way to oppose gentrification. In fact, what’s the point of screaming about gentrification anyway? Do people really think L.A. was better off when downtown was a giant slum that nobody dared to venture into? So opening up new businesses and restaurants and developing a place is bad? What’s the alternative? To make the city one giant cheap ghetto? If people hate the fact that L.A. has become expensive, then GTFO of L.A., that’s what I did. It’s a big country, there are plenty of affordable places to live. If you’re so mad about the cost of living that you are trashing galleries, then move to a cheaper f***king city. As long as people keep moving to LA prices are going to keep going up, so what’s the point in bitching about it? Learn ways to earn more money or move somewhere affordable. Nobody is entitled to cheap rent for the rest of their life.

  13. Disgusting. I realize that has already been said, but that is the sentiment. Since when was it deemed that all artists are white “hipsters” (and, please define your terms or else we do not know who is allowed in or who is going to be hit with paint)? ” As a Native American woman, I could go on until the cows come home, but why bother? The Defend Boyle Heights group twice praises these, and other like “activists” as “disciplined”. Come on, they are a lot of things but “disciplined” is not one of them. How much discipline does it take to wear a bandana over your face and splash some paint? Get a clue – – you are barking up the proverbial wrong tree!

  14. These are undoubted facts:

    1. If you see a process coming along which is going to deprive you of your home, your neighborhood, you livelihood, and turn you into a refugee or homeless person, it is perfectly rational to resist that process by such means as are available to you.

    2. At least in recent decades, artists, performers, and bohemians have been the shock troops of gentrification.

    3. The plutocrats who govern our communities and profit from gentrification are mostly out of the reach of their victims. The victims can reach only the front-line agents, such as the aforesaid shock troops.

    4. Reciting the propertarian mantras of liberal capitalism does not solve any of the problems mentioned above.

    5. Nor will anything happen for the better if you continue to huff and puff without doing some thinking about what is actually going on and your part in it.

    1. Reality check… I lived in LA for 8 years, with much of that being in nearly as economic depressed as Boyle and SC. Locals were constantly complaining about lack of investment, lack of opportunities and poor infrastructure. When they finally got some brave businesses in the form of galleries willing to risk money to develop businesses to show art from artists who rarely get paid any reasonable amount of money for their hard work; some anarchists decide to ruin it. History repeats itself.

      You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be self-entitled to think the neighborhood won’t change in order to improve jobs, housing, infrastructure. The anarchy-first attitude towards any renewal by business just destroys the chances of getting things better in general. The only grand statement it makes (to property owners, business, and government) is the locals are hostile and not interested in improvement.

  15. but they are the cause. gallery owners and slumming artistes are the first wave of gentrifiers that enable the real estate vultures and house-flippers to displace families, that enable increased state violence against youth of color. If there is any mob to accuse of bullying people, it is the mob of gentrifiers.

    1. No not at all like that. Very different neighborhood demographics. Not sure what similarities you even see in those two situations.

  16. The actions of the defend Boyle Heights crowd is no different than brownshirts painting swastikas on Jewish store windows.

  17. How do we know the paint-throwers weren’t just disgruntled artists angry that the gallery wouldn’t show their work?

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