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Protesters Stage ‘Funeral Procession of Free Artistic Expression’ in LA Against Smithsonian Censorship

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.

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Deitch Condoms Ensures Your Art Is ‘Safe’

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.

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Artists & Veterans Protest Deitch at MOCA Geffen [UPDATED]

Even if LA MOCA thinks the Blu Mural Censorship controversy is going to go away, it isn’t. The institution has not responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comments on the issue or an unedited interview on the topic of the Blu mural censorship. And now, LA Times‘s Culture Monster reports on the latest action by some street artists, including Chicano artist/Vietnam War veteran Leo Limon and Joey Krebs (aka The Phantom Street Artist), equipped with projectors at the MOCA Geffen Contemporary wall.

Posted inArt

New Year’s Resolutions for the Art World

The new year is always a time of idealism. We want to improve ourselves, lose weight, find success in a new career: everyone has high aspirations. Why shouldn’t we do the same for the art world? Here’s a list of resolutions I have for the contemporary art community in 2011. There are some suggestions, some criticisms and some predictions, but what they all have in common is a desire to foster a better public artistic dialogue, free of some of the snares we encountered over this past year. Click through for a small flash of optimism before what promises to be a roller coaster ride.

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More Answers in MOCA Mural Censorship [UPDATE 4]

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.”

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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.

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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.

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