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Posted inArt

Interpreting Blu’s Whitewashed Mural, Part 1

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?

Posted inNews

Blu Says Deitch/MOCA Censored Him

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)

Posted inArt

Deitch’s Blunder

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.

Posted inOpinion

Where Is the Art World Wikileaks?

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.

Posted inArt

Should Smithsonian Replace Wojnarowicz Video?

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.

Posted inNews

Mural Too Controversial for LA’s MOCA? [UPDATED]

If you thought the march of street art into the American museum world was going to be easy, think again. LA’s MOCA museum is gearing up for their much trumpeted Art in the Street exhibition that will take place next year and feature lots and lots of street art, but yesterday the Museum that commissioned internationally renowned Italian street artist Blu to paint a mural on a nearby wall whitewashed the massive work within 24 hours. The work, which depicted rows of coffins draped in US dollar bills, disappeared so quickly that people are wondering why.

Posted inArt

Announcing International “Draw Jesus Day” on Dec 26!

We’re classy, so in response to the GOP’s attack on David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire In My Belly” video, we want to go head to head with the fascists in the American right-wing political establishment and announce that their irrational frenzy has encouraged us to announce the “International Draw Jesus Day” event. Hyperallergic readers and fans can submit their own drawing of Jesus for publication on this blogazine on December 26th! [THIS IS NOT A SPOOF BUT IT IS FUNNY]