Street-Art Skirmish

Last week's cover story, “Los Angeles' War on Street Artists,” by Simone Wilson, had readers up in arms. Many couldn't believe the county would take such a hard line on graffiti.

Writes Mario Davila of Los Angeles, “Thank you for calling attention to this important subject. For those caught sleeping, the debate about whether graffiti is art never held water: Graffiti was art from Day One, period. Today graffiti is celebrated by some of the world's top museums, graffiti artists teach in the best universities, countless books have been written on the subject, and, in spite of efforts to quash it, graffiti is bigger than ever. If someone really wants to do something about urban blight, I suggest they start by addressing the horrific level of light pollution over Los Angeles and the dingy canvas murals that have begun appearing on our highways.”

Supersean25 agrees. “This is a horrible way of dealing with graffiti artists. For centuries, all over the world, citizens have used posters, paint, markers, anything, to make a point. Graffiti is a fascinating way to communicate. Illegal gangs have misused this vital way to communicate.

“People, Los Angeles County officials, don't throw graffiti artists in jail — throw illegal gangs using this art form in jail. Don't waste L.A. taxpayer money prosecuting brilliant artists and thinking you are solving crime in L.A.”

Gary Wood writes, “Thank you, Ms. Wilson, for your illuminating piece regarding the imbalance of force taken against street artists who do beautiful works, using as their canvas the thousands of blighted or otherwise mundane walls that make up a majority of the Los Angeles landscape. I am an admirer of Sand One's work, and I was particularly fond of a now-destroyed piece that was done on the side wall of Mi Vida, a shop in Highland Park. I wouldn't know of her existence had I not had the pleasure of seeing this piece on a near daily basis.

“I don't know what led to its demise (could it have been the “Westside” hand sign that the daisy-eyed girl was throwing?), but I feel like something good was taken away from the neighborhood.”

Others thought we chose the wrong victim. David Epstein writes, “I congratulate you — in typical L.A. Weekly fashion you manage to twist the facts, make the vandals the victims and somehow tie the purported slight of 'poor minorities' in favor of 'white-collar' commuters to your article. Here is the basic fact about graffiti (or 'street art,' as you refer to it): Legally, it's vandalism. In my neighborhood, a group of buildings are tagged almost weekly, and I spend 10 to 15 minutes every two days reporting the graffiti to the city. Can I have my time back from these vandals?? My time isn't cheap. And even if the building owners approved a 'mural,' what about the neighbors? Zoning laws govern the exterior appearance of a structure so that neighborhoods are protected as well.”

He continues, “You are likely not homeless, so you surely live in a house or apartment building. How would you like to come home one day and find that your neighbor has commissioned an artwork consisting of 50 rusting cars piled on his front lawn? Would that be OK with you? Gee — it's his property and he commissioned the artwork …

“Nothing prevents graffiti 'artists' from painting. They can paint on a nice, big piece of cardboard set on an easel or hanging on the inside wall of their home. When they decide that their artwork should be outside on the wall of a building — public or private — they are committing felony vandalism. I am happy that they risk having the 'book thrown at them.' However, should you disagree and find graffiti attractive and uplifting, I would suggest you accept the same offer made by numerous letter writers to the director of MOCA: Publish your address and allow unsolicited 'art' to cover your house/apartment. In fact, as it is cleaned up, you can have new art every week!”

A reader who calls himself “LAWeeklyArtFan” has this modest proposal: “Graffiti makers should designate their own houses, garages, sidewalks, walls, driveways, windows, etc., as graffiti zones. They can spray and etch as much as they want all over their own homes and cars and invite others to do the same. People who think graffiti is art should also designate their own art galleries, houses, garages, etc., as graffiti zones. Those art galleries in the expensive neighborhoods, who've been paying graffiti makers should welcome every graffiti artist to their gallery buildings. Surely those art-gallery owners would welcome that free art all over their buildings, windows, sidewalks, gates, delivery vehicles, etc. That is the very obvious simple solution.

“Please print this in the L.A. Weekly and please print your address so that graffiti artists know where they can start putting graffiti all over your business, sidewalks, vans, windows, walls, gates, etc. If you don't think this is a good idea for graffiti artists to come to your business and home, please explain why. You said it was art, right?”

LAWeeklyArtFan, you'll see our address below. Should you be so curious to drive by, you might notice that we've put our money where our mouth is: The artists known as HOW and NOSM paid us a visit earlier this year, and we think the result is pretty damn fabulous.

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