Upcoming: L.A. Freewalls Inside

A note from the editor: Yes, the Daniel Lahoda in this post is the same Daniel Lahoda who was investigated by the LAPD and complained about online on numerous occasions. While, to my knowledge, Lahoda has never been arrested and none of the past complaints have resulted in civil litigation, there were a lot of complaints about Lahoda being brought up consistently for a number of years. It’s impossible for me to say for sure what happened in Lahoda’s past. What I can say is that he does seem to be making an honest go of things with his current projects. I’ve had personal issues with Lahoda myself, but as far as I am concerned, this new gallery of his is a time for second chances. Since the last of the complaints against him surfaced, Lahoda has gone above and beyond with his noncommercial ventures like the LA Freewalls Project and involvement in changing LA’s mural regulations. If you asked me today, “Would you do business with Daniel Lahoda?”, my answer would be a cautious yes. If Lahoda did make mistakes in the past, I do not think he will make those mistakes again. Consider this aside as my way of publicly putting rumors and allegations from Lahoda’s past in the past and instead deciding to focus on the here and now. – RJ Rushmore

Daniel Lahoda’s L.A. Freewalls project has changed the face of the Arts District in Los Angeles. That much is inarguable. In fact, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine what the old warehouse district looked like without the rotating gallery at 7th & Mateo, ROA’s outdoor exhibition spanning Jesse and Imperial, HOW & NOSM, DABS & MYLA, Shepherd Fairey, and perhaps most indelibly, JR’s L.A. Wrinkles. Trust me, this is a good thing.

So what happens when these muralists that have transformed a neighborhood bring their work inside to the brand new LALA gallery? Can it maintain the same level of energy? The verdict will have to wait for the opening, but at first glance, you simply cannot argue with that lineup.

Up-and-coming artists like Anthony Lister, ASKEW, and ZES, all of whom have recently had some of the hottest shows anywhere, are in it. ZES’s mural partners in Little Tokyo and in L.A. Freewalls (alongside the incomparable PUSH, who is also in the show) UGLAR, are represented in the forms of Evan Skrederstu and Christopher D. Brand and possibly some special guests. On top of that, there’s HOW & NOSM. There’s Dan Witz. That alone is a killer group.

But throw in someone like, oh, I don’t know, Ron English–not to mention MOCA “Art in the Streets” vets like Shepherd Fairey, SABER, RISK, and SWOON? Well, let’s say that things just got serious. And they might get crazy too. In a good way. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Quite honestly, I haven’t seen this kind of excitement around in a while. Ever since Art Walk wrecked Gallery Row with its costly series of missteps, Downtown Los Angeles has been bleeding galleries. Upper Playground is gone. Mr. Cartoon’s shop is gone. Worst of all, Bert Green Fine Art, the originator himself, is gone too. The truth is, Downtown L.A. needs an innovative gallery–one willing to take risks, one unafraid to offend or prompt dialogue–more than people think.

Can LALA Gallery be one of those? Come April 21, we’ll find out. But on the evidence of the incredible show roster, it’s off to a very promising start.

JetSet Graffiti under investigation by the LAPD

Due to legal concerns, I’ve decided that the best move is unfortunately to disable all comments on this post. – RJ Rushmore

This is probably old news to a lot of readers, but maybe not to all: LAPD’s art fraud unit is currently investigating JetSet Graffiti for various allegations of theft and fraud. JetSet Graffiti is an online gallery run by Daniel Lahoda to sell prints and occasionally original work by street artists and graffiti writers. In the past, JetSet Graffiti has released prints with artists such as Ron English, D*Face and Saber. This isn’t the first time that accusations have been made against JetSet Graffiti, but to my knowledge this is the first time that police are investigating the business.

On August 31st, a message appeared on the Urban Art Assocation/Banksy Forum. Silky, the forum moderator, posted an email from an investigator at the LAPD. You can read the message on the forum, but it essentially said that the LAPD were trying to reach anybody who had had bad business experiences with Lahoda.

Then, around September 16th, the LAPD posted a “Crime Alert” about Lahoda on their website. The crime alert (available online) is an information request once again asking for anyone potentially defrauded by Lahoda to come forward as well as a warning about complaints that have been received. The LAPD says that they have gotten complaints including “art ordered and paid for but never delivered,” “taking art on consignment and diverting the art and money obtained for his own use,” “selling unauthorized prints” and other issues as well. The alert also claims that Lahoda was fired from three jobs over the last 6 years for embezzling funds (I’ve attempted to reach these companies, but could only get a hold of one. They declined to comment). It’s important to note that even given all these things, the report states that Lahoda “is not wanted by the police at this time.”

I spoke with Detective Don Hrycyk at the LAPD, the officer in charge of investigating Lahoda. He gave one example of the numerous complaints that he had received which he believed to be true: Allegedly, a buyer in England gave $8000 to Lahoda for a Banksy print, but never received the artwork.

Lahoda and I were in touch by phone and email both before and after the crime alert was posted online. He offered to answer some questions for Vandalog in an effort to explain his side of the story. Despite repeated emails to Lahoda and his repeated assurance that he would be responding to the questions in a matter of days, I’ve still not heard back from him after a few weeks, so I’ve had to publish this without his comments.