Deitch did the right thing in a crappy situation

I’m about to get my virtual ass kicked with this post. This might get more negative comments than anything I’ve ever written before. I know that. Any yet, here I am.

On Thursday, word hit the internet that Blu had painted a mural on The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in LA but that it had been whitewashed. On Saturday, Vandalog was the first site to publish any official comments from MOCA. And late on Monday, The LA Times has finally published some substantive comments from museum director Jeffrey Deitch about the whole series of events.

Here’s a selection from the article:

Reached by phone while traveling, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch confirmed that he made the decision because the mural was “insensitive” to the community.

“This is 100% about my effort to be a good, responsible, respectful neighbor in this historic community,” Deitch said. “Out of respect for someone who is suffering from lung cancer, you don’t sit in front of them and start chain smoking.

“Look at my gallery website — I have supported protest art more than just about any other mainstream gallery in the country,” he added. “But as a steward of a public institution, I have to balance a different set of priorities — standing up for artists and also considering the sensitivities of the community.”

He rejects the talk of censorship. “This doesn’t compare to David Wojnarowicz. This shouldn’t be blown up into something larger than it is,” he says, describing a curator’s prerogative to pick and choose what goes into a show. “Every aspect of the show involves a very considered discussion.”

The unfortunate thing, he acknowledges, was the timing, as the artist began the mural while Deitch was out of town earlier this month for the art fair in Miami. “Blu was supposed to fly out the second-to-last week in November, so we could have conversations about it in advance,” Deitch said. “But he said he had to change his flights, so he ended up working in isolation without any input.”

When he returned from Miami and saw the mural, then more than halfway completed, Deitch said he made the decision to remove it very quickly, unprompted by complaints. “There were zero complaints, because I took care of it right away.” He asked Blu to finish the work so it could be documented as part of the exhibition and appear in the accompanying catalog.

I’ve got to stand by Deitch 100% on this. Besides the very legitimate reasons he mentions for removing the mural, his appointment to MOCA was a very controversial one. We don’t live in a perfect world, and this was a pragmatic move which takes into consideration the larger concerns of MOCA and the LA community. Yes, this whole thing was a poorly managed series of unfortunate events resulting in a great artist’s work being destroyed (after, what I assume was extensive documentation which is how the vast majority of street art and probably art in general is viewed these days), but Deitch made the right move for the wider museum. Things shouldn’t have gotten out of hand, and they did, but Deitch has acknowledged that. Look at the situation from Deitch’s perspective when he showed up in LA to a half-finished mural that he knew would not work.

Deitch made a curatorial, respectful (of the LA community) and politically pragmatic decision to remove a work from an exhibition that he had not approved for inclusion in the show. If he had seen a sketch beforehand (as he should have), let the wall get painted and then removed it, this would be a very different discussion. Although some have suggested that this signals disaster ahead for his upcoming street art exhibition in April, I am not so sure. Sebastian at Unurth and I have a friendly bet going based on the average of reviews of MOCA’s street art show in the LA Times, Unurth and Vandalog: If the reviews are positive, he buys drinks next time we see each other and if the reviews are negative, I have to buy the drinks. So we’ll see how that turns out in a couple of months.

Photo by vmiramontes

Answers to why Blu’s mural was removed in LA

The street art community has been in a bit of a hubbub over a mural by Blu being painted over less than 24 hours after it was completed. Until now, MOCA, the museum that commissioned Blu to paint the mural on one of their walls, had stayed silent on why the mural was removed. In my post I tried not to jump to conclusions, but given what’s going on at the Smithsonian and the silence from MOCA, it was hard not to speculate and assume the worst: pointless censorship. Some people also speculated that the whole thing was a preplanned stunt. Luckily, it sounds like all this was just a series of unfortunate events, but with a reasonable explanation.

I’ve just received word from MOCA as to what happened:

MOCA commissioned Blu, one of the world’s most outstanding street artists to create a work for the north wall of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

The Geffen Contemporary building is located on a special, historic site. Directly in front the north wall is the Go For Broke monument, which commemorates the heroic roles of Japanese American soldiers, who served in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, and opposite the wall is the LA Veterans’ Affairs Hospital. The museum’s director explained to Blu that in this context, where MOCA is a guest among this historic Japanese American community, the work was inappropriate. MOCA has invited Blu to return to Los Angeles to paint another mural.

Certainly not the way you want mural projects to go, but if Blu understands and respects MOCA’s decision enough to paint another mural there, then I do too. This was not the pointless censorship that it has been painted to be by the internet, it is being respectful to the community that would be living with this art every day.

Photo by Unurth

MOCA asks Blu to paint mural, buffs mural after 24 hours

I heard the most wonderful news recently: Blu was about to paint a huge mural in LA. This week, that’s exactly what he did. Blu was invited to paint the wall by MOCA, the museum where Jeffrey Deitch is about to put on a major street art exhibition. In fact, the mural was painted on one of the walls of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary. A mural by Blu would probably be, for me, a highlight of that exhibition. Unfortunately, less than a day after the mural was finished (and yes, it had been finished), it has been completely painted over by MOCA workers. What’s going on here? So far, nobody really knows. MOCA has declined to comment.

Unurth has more images, GOOD offers some speculation and LA Downtown News has a bit to add to the story. Most interesting given the content of Blu’s mural, LA Downtown News notes that the mural faced a Veterans Administration building and was also within sight of a war memorial. No evidence to say whether either of those things factored in to why the mural was removed though.

The buffing of this mural is especially worrying to me given the current controversy at the National Portrait Gallery about the removal of controversial art. Hopefully there will be more answers about what is going on in here in the next few days.

Photo by Unurth

Blu Makes a Movie

Coming Soon…. to a DVD near you…

Many of Blu’s time lapse videos, mural paintings and short animations will be combined into a feature length film called Blu 2010. As much as I like the idea of something like this, I don’t really understand the reasoning behind it since Blu’s work is all viral (and free) anyway. I’m sure some of the never before seen footage may be cool, but I think it is a bit of an easy way to cash in. To be fair though, I have watched his work multiple times and do enjoy it, so I don’t think the concept is a completely terrible idea. I just have mixed feelings about the whole thing…

For your enjoyment, however, are two of my favorite videos by Blu. The first is “Big Bang Big Boom” which attempts to trace the evolution of the world. The second is Blu’s collaboration with David Ellis at 2009’s Fame Festival in Italy, entitled “Combo.”

The Underdogs – making room for street art in Portugal

The Underdogs project is a new venture from Vhils and a number of other (primarily Portuguese) street artists who are trying to gain more awareness for street art in Portugal. Some of the artists included in the group include Vhils and Tosco. Vhils tell Vandalog that the core of The Underdogs is a drive to make a platform for showing and uplifting street art in Portugal in a variety of different ways.

I’m still not 100% sure of everything that the project will involve, but their launch event is taking place this Friday at Vera Cortês in Lisbon. For that event, The Underdogs have teamed up with Pictures on Walls to show some prints by Blu, Steve Powers and others. In addition to being an art exhibition, the launch event will double as the launch of The Underdogs’ first book, a book about the Portuguese street art scene and its history.

For more info about The Underdogs and their launch party, check out Target’s blog.

This could be the start of something pretty interesting. If you’re in Lisbon, definitely something to check out. Let us know how it goes.

Weekend link-o-rama

A lot of events have been happening this week, most likely so that everyone can make a last minute push in shows and such before the holidays. Then we have nothing to write about. Gotta love when a whole industry shuts down for a month or so.

Blu (photo vua Nuart)

Anyways, so here is what has been going on:

  • Tonight is the opening of the London Miles Gallery “The Idol Hours”. The show is a group show that gives artists like Luke Chueh, Travis Lampe and Scott Young the opportunity to portray artworks from the art canon in a modern sense
  • Factory Fresh will be hosting a Block Part in Brooklyn Nov. 20th with a live mural painting from Gai, Imminent Disaster, Chris Stain and Skewville. The Burning Candy Crew will also be showing new portions of their ongoing documentary Dots
  • New Blu piece in France popped up recently. Such detail as usual
  • Remi/Rough has been busy in England lately. He has a new print released, designed the decor of the new Wahaca Soho eatery, and put up a nice piece in Birmingham with time lapse video
  • Finally, A Barry McGee retrospective will take place in 2012 in Berkeley, California in conjunction with the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The two organizations were awarded a $100,000 grant by the Andy Warhol Foundation to put on the show
  • Unusual Image has some great photos of the Best Ever show that took place at Blackall Studios last night
  • Stolenspace will play host to the second solo show by Ronzo entitled “Crackney’s Finest.” The show will open Nov. 19th

Nuart 2010: Landmarks


Stavanger’s Nuart festival is well under way right now with some huge walls finished or in progress. This year’s Nuart is called The “Landmark” Series, and artists are not taking the challenge lightly. While in Stavanger last year, I thought that the city had been pretty transformed by street art, but now things are getting bigger than ever. A few weeks ago, Elisa posted here about Dotmasters’ Toy piece, but that’s just the start of what’s been going on.

Vhils in progress
EVOL didn't actually go huge, but he made a bunch of these (check out the Know Hope tag that was already on the box)
Alexandros Vasmoulakis

And I mentioned this piece by Blu and Ericailcane a while back, but didn’t actually post photos, so here are some photos of it:

Photos by kalevkevad

Blu paints the first wall at this year’s BLK River

This year’s BLK River Festival has officially begun with this crazy new wall from the master of huge walls, Blu. Of course, Blu isn’t the only artist who will be beautifying Vienna over the next few weeks. Other artists involved in the festival this year include John Fekner, DTAGNO, Know Hope, Ox, Sam3 and Brad Downey. I don’t know if I could put together a much better and more eclectic street art festival.

The wall in progress

Photos by Scarygami

Playing catch-up: It’s a link post!

Been in NYC for the last few days. Besides being busy, it seems like the hotel I was at still hadn’t quite figured out the concept of wifi extending to all rooms in the hotel… So now I’ve got a lot of stories to post about. Here’s what I missed while I was away, though you may have read about it elsewhere:

  • I’ve actually been meaning to post about this for a while. Ken Harman from Arrested Motion and the Hi-Fructose Blog, just curated one of the better group shows I’ve seen. Some artists of particular note would be Emory Douglas (a major influence on Shepard Fairey and important propaganda-maker in his own right), Dabs, Myla, Mike Shine and Monica Canilao. A Decade With No Name is open on Saturdays and Sundays through September 12th at 54 Washington St. Oakland, CA. My Love For You Is A Stampede of Horses has photos of Monica’s installation, and Spoke has photos of everything else and is where you can purchase the artwork.
  • Papergirl NY is bringing Germany’s Papergirl concept to the USA. Basically, artists get together to distribute a bunch of free art to members of the public by riding around on bikes. Their YouTube video shows what happens in a bit more detail. Papergirl NY events are taking place in New York City this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday they will be at the DUMBO Arts Center, and then Papergirl will move to The Armory where you can find them Friday through Sunday.
  • Mobstr hasn’t been around forever, but his humor can already rival Banksy.
  • Blu and Ericailcane are in Stavanger for Nuart, and their wall is one of Blu’s boldest political statements yet (after all, Stavanger is an oil-funded city, and oil money from taxes pretty much funds Nuart). Nice stuff.
  • I’m loving Shepard Fairey’s portrait of Johnny Ramone at Signal Gallery’s Beyond Punk show.
  • Graffiti in New Orleans after Katrina.
  • Luzinterruptus has made some “urban nests.”
  • I’m hoping to post some more about this in the coming days, but Jordan Seiler as written on his blog about his experiences at Living Walls.
  • Once5 aka Jeffrey Pena has a solo show coming up at My Addiction Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. Pena has a nice timelapse on YouTube of him putting up a large paper-cut in Brooklyn.

So that’s it for now, but I should be back to daily posts now.

Blu hits Berlin (and other news)

Blu has been busy recently. Here are two huge walls he painted in Berlin. I’m not so sure what the meaning of this first one is though. Something about the Berlin Wall and the Euro. I am woefully unprepared to hazard any guesses about European politics.

On the other hand, this piece is a bit easier to understand:

And that global warming mural is painted right next to a classic Blu (and around the corner from an Os Gemeos):

And so long as we’re on the topic of Blu, it’s worth mentioning two more things: A. This wall in Warsaw and B. Blu will be at Nuart in Stavanger later this year along with Roa, M-City, Evol, Ericailcane and others.

Photos by Just