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Anatomy of an Aesthetic Criminal

Click here for "The Rise of the Seventh Letter," by Shelley Leopold.

The lawyers say I must achieve distance via plausible deniability. So, hypothetically speaking only . . . it never occurred. At all. This is a piece of fiction. Please convey my due respect to the court. I emphatically deny all of the charges, as I have no culpability in, knowledge of or complicity in these matters.

Precursors/influences? Chumash pictographs, the Spanish conquistadors’ florid carved signatures, Walt Disney’s WWI graf, White Fence, Siqueiros America Tropical (for the spray), Bert Grimm at the Pike (for the line), Von Dutch and Ed Roth (for the brushwork), and Victor One de Sotel (for getting up).

The reductive intent? Elementary expression, to be able to make a single essential mark, the stroke of which is instantly identifiable as your own.

Tools of the aesthetic criminal employed in methodological visual overlay and the seizing of surfaces: Bowerman sprinters, climbing rigs, scanners, pole extenders, bug caps, scribe points, night vision, Czech fats, brass atomizing tips, etching solution, Klein 36s.

Unidentified miscreants wrecked thousands of noncontiguous miles of picture plane. LACMA, City Hall, Pacific Ocean Park, the Flying Dutchman, the Sea Serpent, Chuntaro Flat, Harbor Tanks, Battery Leary, Taylor Yard, Eastside Brewery, Lil’ Lords Tunnel, Toluca Station, Humaliwu, the Cotton Exchange, Chavez Ravine, Venice Pavilion, MoMA-NY and the River Sewer Cats come to mind. Cars, bikes, trains, boards and all manner of equipment were bombed to extinction in the waging of this aesthetic war.

Then someone went and appropriated/copyrighted/trademarked some of these images. In choosing to steal that which had already been freely surrendered, they profiteered the collective consciousness.

An unsubstantiated allegation in Rolling Stone that I had a “propensity for vandalism and the destruction of private and public property” was my demise. The culprit? Some other legally disclaimed, morally unrepentant guy who looked a bit like me. Veracity is malleable for the command-and-control structure. You’re guilty because they say you are. In a rigged game, the only way to win is to play to lose. Now it’s all cops, lawyers, judges and triple strikes.

According to People magazine, Zephyr took up the name and advanced the game in homage to some of the shit we done. God bless anyone with strategic initiative. When I see good glyphs, honest arcs and eloquently splayed softball convergence fades, I still marvel at the insidious serendipity of it all. If you paint inside of a museum, you are called an artist. If you do an identical piece on the outside of that same institution, you are labeled criminal. Alleys, avenues and overpasses are the new Sistine Chapels.

—Craig Stecyk


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