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 …
New York-based artist and artistic director of the Institute of Art, Religion and Social Justice AA Bronson has sent an email to the National Portrait Gallery requesting that his work “Felix, June 5, 1994” (1994/99) [pictured above] be removed from their Hide/Seek exhibition in light of the recent censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire In My Belly” video.
In a protest that has become practice in China, Karen Patterson is starting a movement to flood imprisoned Chinese artist Wu Yuren (AKA “Little Ai”) with Christmas cards as a gesture of support. The artist has been imprisoned for his participation in a protest against studio demolitions since May 31, 2010.
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?
Now the man who gave us Hope and then made us Hope-less is weighing in on the Blu mural controversy and it’s rather embarrassing. The good part …
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.
MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch has finally broken his silence and spoken to the Los Angeles Times over the recent whitewashing of the Blu wall commissioned for the upcoming Art in the Streets exhibition, which will be the first major US museum show featuring street art.
Warhol Foundation wants Wojnarowicz brought back to Hide/Seek … Smithsonian says no … Catholics for Choice weigh in …
Some of us have been thinking the same thing. Since the art world depends on tight-lipped kowtowing to the power$ that be, I can’t think of a field that needs a “Wikileaks” more than the art world. The recent Los Angeles MOCA censorship story regarding the Blu mural must have a paper trail somewhere or at least information that has not been made public yet. Bring it insiders, feel free to use our contact form and we will respect your confidentiality.
MOCA has emailed their version of why the Blu mural came down to Vandalog, the street art blog. We discover that Deitch was involved in the removal of the mural but some questions remain …
The Smithsonian’s decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video from its Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is already made and done. The piece is gone, but it has popped up in a number of other locations, including a display at the New Museum and Transformer Gallery in DC. The question is, should the piece be restored to Hide/Seek? I’d say that it doesn’t really matter any more.