On Saturday night, the renowned and mysterious Italian street artist Blu went on an art-destroying spree through the streets of Bologna.
According to the art world’s favorite vlogger, James Kalm, Art in the Streets essayist Carlo McCormick spoke on June 19 at MOCA and Jeffrey Deitch was in the crowd.
The “Oficina de Gestion de Muros” (Walls Management Office) is an independent Spanish project that fills the empty spaces around the city of Madrid with art. WMO is putting the best street artists on the planet in touch with Madrid locals, neighbors, shopkeepers and businesses alike who have empty walls waiting to be filled with art. For their first project “Medianeras de Madrid”, or Joint Walls of Madrid, they worked with two amazing street artists: Blu and Sam3. Now, they are putting together a listing of artists to collaborate with other wall-owners. The person responsible for founding WMO is Remedios Vincent. I had a chat with Remedios to get to know a little more about this project.
Los Angeles — With a cardboard cross and draped coffin, a group of activists and artists assembled in front of downtown LA’s Millennium Biltmore Hotel to stage a “Funeral Procession of Free Artistic Expression,” where Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough was speaking as part of the Town Hall Los Angeles public issues series on “New Perspectives at the Smithsonian.”
The funeral procession was organized in large part by the art protest group LA Raw and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG), in response to Clough’s ordered removal of David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video “A Fire in My Belly” from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibition in late November 2010.
Last Thursday January 13, there was a panel discussion at LA’s Fowler Museum titled “How Does Street Art Humanize Cities?” Organized with Zócalo, the event featured curators, artists, and reporters, most of whom were associated in some way with the LA MOCA’s upcoming street art exhibition, yet to everyone’s surprise the topic of the Blu mural whitewash wasn’t even discussed. But that’s not to say it didn’t come up in other ways. 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 the protest condoms as they walked in and additional condoms were placed around the venue.
Now that the dust has somewhat settled on the Wojnarowicz and Blu censorship cases, a number of people have been chiming in about what this tells us about the state of art and our culture, specifically American culture. The numerous opinions from where I stand look dire. Here are some fascinating posts we haven’t mentioned before.
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films shoots down MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch’s decision to whitewash the Blu mural without consulting the community … This.Is.A.Must.Read. …
Some answers are finally surfacing after a week of the LA MOCA controversy. Recently an email between the censored street artist Blu and renowned graffiti photographer Henry Chalfant has been posted online. Blu has confirmed to me via email that the text is real, and Chalfant has said he will provide his comments on the situation this afternoon.
The email reveals, among other things, that MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch did not request or see any preliminary sketches for Blu’s mural, MOCA whitewashed the mural without informing Blu, the artist has yet to be paid, and Blu encountered many veterans who found the mural “truthful.”
Artist Blu has just blogged about his surprise that the word “censorship” is disappearing from the discussion of his whitewashed mural and being replaced by the word “curatorial choice.” He also reveals why the mural isn’t as finished as some of his other work …
There has been so much talk about Blu’s commissioned mural but few people are talking about the work itself and what it could mean. As a critic who has been looking at a great deal of street art for years, I want to weigh in on the topic. Some art critics have been dismissive of the work and thought it callous, while some writers and online commenters are of the opinion that it’s not much to look at.
Most of these people have a limited knowledge of street art and the criteria that is often used to judge it and its meaning, interest, etc. That’s not to discount their judgments, since I think it’s important that people weigh in on the debate regardless of their perspective, and art is culturally valuable when it generates discussion. Blu’s work often probes responses of all kinds. The artist doesn’t seem to differentiate between the positive and the negative responses in a way you might think, and in his 2009 Barcelona video he included the voices of people who disparage his work as an important part of the record. So, who is Blu?
Just when you thought this story may be dead, Italian street artist Blu, whose mural was whitewashed by MOCA last week, has shot back at Jeffrey Deitch’s brush-this-all-under-the-rug mentality with a fiery statement he emailed to the LA Times:
It is censorship that almost turned into self-censorship when they asked me to openly agree with their decision to erase the wall. In Soviet Union they were calling it ‘self-criticism.’
Deitch invited me to paint another mural over the one he erased, and I will not do that.
How will the art world react to the fact that a major museum director, and not some museum bureaucrat (as in the case of the Smithsonian’s Wojnarowicz censorship) has actively censored a prominent artist? I can’t imagine with anything short of outrage.
I contacted the LA MOCA’s press department 15 minutes ago, and they said there is no official response to Blu’s statement, but they will let us know when there is.
Animal New York has responses from Ron English, Faile and other prominent street artists who aren’t happy with MOCA and Deitch either.
One thing is for sure, this issue is NOT going away any time soon.
Original image: Blu’s MOCA mural being whitewashed (via Unurth, image by Casey Caplowe, and used with permission)
Blu is a street artist. One of the points of being a street artist is freedom to express yourself publicly, without rules. Once a museum commissions a street artist to paint a mural on an outdoor wall does it then become public art and institutional? I think so.
And I don’t blame Blu for taking a museum commission to create his art. But I do blame MOCA heavily for not nurturing the project. Had MOCA been responsible to Blu and gone through some basic research prior to approval, this probably would have never happened. Once a museum commissions a street artist for a mural, that mural becomes institutionalized. So public art rules should then apply. This means initial drawings, site approval, a budget, insurance, and a curator/project manager who sees to producing the artist’s vision. In this case, it might have meant, oh … looking across the parking lot to the giant monument sitting RIGHT THERE.