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Artists Write Protests in Light on L.A. Museum Wall

Posted on Jan 5, 2011

The Los Angeles Times posted video from Monday night’s protest here.

Last month, Jeffrey Deitch, director of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles, made the contentious decision to whitewash a politically themed mural composed on a wall of the museum by Italian artist Blu. On Monday night, a group of artistically inclined demonstrators let their opinions of Deitch’s choice be known in the form of laser graffiti and projected images beamed onto the site of the coverup.

The situation was further complicated by the fact that it was Deitch himself who had commissioned Blu to paint the piece in the first place. Here’s why he changed his mind—and kicked off a controversy in the art world.  —KA

“Culture Monster” in the Los Angeles Times:

The group of artists—which included respected Chicano artist/Vietnam War veteran Leo Limon as well as Joey Krebs a.k.a. The Phantom Street Artist—took turns tagging the museum wall using a handmade laser graffiti gun created for the event by artist/computer programmer Todd Moyer. A specially designed computer program animated the light-graffiti so that it looked like dripping paint as it hit the wall.

The MOCA wall has been blank since Deitch had Italian street artist Blu’s antiwar mural whitewashed from it in early December. Deitch had commissioned Blu to paint the mural; but after it was completed, Deitch became concerned that its provocative imagery of coffins draped in dollar bills would be offensive to some in the neighborhood as it was adjacent to a Veterans Affairs hospital and a war memorial to Japanese American soldiers. The incident sparked heated, and sharply divided, opinions that continue to rattle many in the art community.

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By lasmog, January 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

I’m glad people are still protesting MOCA’s despicable act of censorship.  The idea that an artist cannot make an anti-war statement for fear of offending veterans is Orwellian.

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By Kasia Anderson, January 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

Hey, berniem—That’s a great idea, but I wonder if we wouldn’t be co-opting
something from the groups who put the protest together if we went for the T-
shirt project. I think either one of the artists or organizations directly involved
with Monday’s laser show might cotton, if you will, to the idea, though—
perhaps they could be tracked down for the purpose?

If you follow the “Read more” link under the L.A. Times excerpt in this story, you
can find links on the Times’ own story page to a couple groups present at the
demonstration. They might be interested in hooking you up there. And I’m sure
Mr. Fish’d be thrilled that you’re sporting his art on your shirts!

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By berniem, January 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment

Hey TD, can we get Blu to put the image on a T-shirt? I already have several from Mr. Fish which I wear proudly and would purchase one of these as an honored adjunct to the collection!

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By thethirdman, January 6, 2011 at 11:59 am Link to this comment

Street artists being commissioned to paint for “the Man.”  Then whining when “the
Man” decides to go a different direction.  Both parties are a joke.  Go protest
something that matters.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 6, 2011 at 3:48 am Link to this comment

I recently read an article about the military skittishness about
“Knowing the dead,” and publicly showing images of dead soldiers
and the effect it would have on the psyche of the public.  We only
have to recall the vivid pictures of the battlefield of dead soldiers
at Gettysburg to get the idea.  I was also reminded of presidents’
refusal to let the media show coffins of soldier bodies being
returned from the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the one in Iraq. 
It did have a delaying effect on the reaction of the public to begin
their protests.  For the gravity of the matter just didn’t sink in from
the overwhelming verbal diarrhea of the media.  Too much incessant
talk tends to numb the ears, and the mind.  Words and more words get
lost in the ocean of words.  But pictures bring home the horror directly
to the heart. 

Art is a form of speech that uses images instead of the written or
spoken word.  As such, it is symbolic speech.  It has the immediate
power to sway opinion.  It has the power to expose shame for human
action.  When art is stifled for making comments on the horrors
humans inflict on other humans, we need to understand its unique
ability to suppress free speech and why it is of ultimate value for people
to intuit the gravity of the actions of humankind.  Vision is the fastest
way to arouse such understanding, it is called insight for a reason. 

The reason why the ten amendments were added to the Constitution
that guaranteed certain freedoms and rights were because much of the
population were concerned that those freedoms were not protected
enough as it was written.

Putting together the image of coffins with money blanketing them is
a jolt to the sense of morality against war.  Destroying that image in
the form of a mural on the wall of the museum was a travesty.  Even
though that image now exists only in memory, and fortunately a few
photographs, a photo of it sans the word censor which I think interferes
with the impact of the image, ought to be made into posters and
plastered all over the country and a middle finger given to the Museum
Director Deitch who had it destroyed.

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By DR, January 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Deitch got soft once he left NYC.

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