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Graffiti artists speak out in support of 'Art in the Streets'

Workmen take a break as they set up the "Art in the Streets" exhibit outside the museum on April 14.

As “Art in the Streets” at the Museum of Contemporary Art comes under fire from law enforcement for encouraging tagging, graffiti artists say authorities are exaggerating the problem and ignoring the show's contribution to the local economy.

Los Angeles police officials said the exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA has become a target to taggers who want to leave a mark outside the Little Tokyo exhibition space where it opened Sunday.

Artist Saber said the exhibit will give a boost to the local economy.

"How much money has the exhibit brought into the local community?" he said. "The lines are around the block.”

Saber, whose work is in the exhibit, said it is ridiculous to suggest there has been a massive surge in graffiti because of the show.

“If you look at the amount of graffiti in Little Tokyo, it hasn’t changed much," he said. "It is a slight increase, but there is not the amount of graffiti they have people believe.”

Saber has become one of L.A.’s best-known graffiti-writers-turned-gallery-artist.

He said the verbal assaults on the exhibit are part of a widespread offensive by Los Angeles authorities, who in recent months have arrested and sued numerous taggers. He said the attacks will backfire and draw more attention to artists who deserve to be noticed.

“Ultimately, the controversy surrounding the exhibit is good,” Saber said, adding that he and his associates have donated numerous murals to the city at areas that would otherwise be tagged.

Los Angeles authorities should instead be asking why people leave graffiti, he said. “They should be asking why there are there no outlets for creative individuals?”

Other artists say graffiti as a movement has a life of its own.

“The 'Art in the Streets' exhibit or an exhibit like it had to come about around this time period," said Cristian Gheorghiu, also known as Smear, an L.A. tagger-turned-gallery artist who is being sued by the city for his tagging. "it would be a cultural crime if it hadn't."

“It is unfortunate that some of the people couldn’t control themselves and bombed the area around the MOCA, but that’s what art in the streets is all about: Untamed expression," he continued. "An uncaged tiger is lot more impressive than a tiger in a zoo.

“I can no longer touch the streets, but a lot of these other guys still can and will, and after a number of them are taken out of the game, others will take their place. That’s graff.”


Tagging outside an L.A. street art exhibit fuels debate

Street artist 'Space Invader' believed detained in L.A. vandalism case

Tagger vandalizes Little Tokyo Gold Line station; ties to graffiti art exhibit suspected

-- Richard Winton

Photo: The "Art in the Streets" exhibit is installed outside the Geffen Contemporary last week. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (19)

Okay, I'll come over to your house and scribble all over your stuff, how's that? It's art, right? No matter that I'm painting someone else's property without their permission?

Isn't it time for taggers to move on? Haven't they had their day already? Rembrandt begat Monet begat Picasso....

Lemme know where "Sabre" lives so I can put my "art" on the side of his business.....maybe when the city fines him for cleanup, he can see how cute this crap is.

Hah! "Why there are there no outlets for creative individuals?” Cut the crap. They can obviously afford paint, and every trash day I see dozens of things an artist yearning to paint could express himself upon. But that doesn't get you recognition and attention, you have to work for that, unless you just take it like some useless thug.

I don't deny some of it's art, but when the artists will barely speak out against the harm their compadres are doing the venue that's recognizing them, maybe it should just close them down and send the ingrates back to the streets (with increased police presence).

“It is unfortunate that some of the people couldn’t control themselves and bombed the area around the MOCA, but that’s what art in the streets is all about: Untamed expression," he continued. "An uncaged tiger is lot more impressive than a tiger in a zoo.

So, he even admits that their event supports illegal activities. What a moron. He's the reason why most people feel the way they do towards graffiti "artists."

They are not artists, they are vandals.

"and after a number of them are taken out of the game, others will take their place. That’s graff.”

Graffiti will never die.


Moca should have whitewashed wall to provide a blank canvas.

Stop the crap! "Art in the Streets" IS GRAFITTI! I don't know how the journalist really feels about the "art" but don't care what political agencies, committees and/or artists feel about it. IT'S THE CITIZENS THAT MATTER!
Ask us what we think. I was born and raised in LA....this is an insult to LA! It's not art. It is promoting a cultural impression and oh, yes may I say... this is not the American culture. We learned to have more respect for others' property. Ans it is, by the way, my property too!

I am a 60 year old lady. I have seen beautiful graffiti art. I'm not talking about the territorial gangster stuff or those who deface walls on personal homes etc. All my sons are artist my eldest a fine artist, sculptor to my youngest a tatoo artist.

As someone from the gallery world, Deitch’s job experience is to monetize art. Isn’t it ironic that now he has taken an art form that’s philosophy was to defiy monetization and monetized it? Of course as an owner of this work and a galley owner the worth his portfolio will increase because of this exhibit.

At least because of this exhibit, the Resnick show, the Peter Marino Collection and the Broad collections/influence has finally laid bare the fact that museums have become institutions whose purpose is to increase the value of their collections and the collections of their “friends” and no longer to educate and benefit the public. In the past his relationship between art and money was hidden, but no longer.
As “Deep Throat” said if you want things explained “follow the money”.

exactly! why didn't moca provide a space for other graff artists to come an express their individual artistic expression.
~~ isn't this what the art world is about, expression. let us feel the depth of the street artist, the anguish and despair of the la streets.

Let's see if the new exhibition "Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas" which opens on May 15th at the Pasadena Museum of California Art will bring this kind of attention...

MOCA did commission a graffiti artist to paint along the side of their building. However, due to controversy the mural was whitewashed over.

It is impossible to approach this style/media without controversy. But the conversation is important and constructive. I personally am very excited about this exhibition, but I respect that others may not feel the same. I just want to thank MOCA for creating this forum of discussion.

Tell Coke I'm tired of their vandalism. Particularly the 10 story plus ads!

I remember Saber had a dope piece on the heavens of the 710fwy, back in the day. It took forever to get buffed. Nice to know he is doing something with his art.

Plek - UPN (ur property's next)

It makes me really sad that these vandals destroyed many arts. Most of the art on Highway 101 was vandalized by taggers. I remember being young driving on 101 and seeing the marathon and space painting. It's not art if you're destroying something that isn't yours. There are plenty of spaces to do legal grafiti, such as your home and some business's pay to have nice grafitit on their walls. How dare they compare random taggers to artist.

"isn't this what the art world is about, expression. let us feel the depth of the street artist, the anguish and despair of the la streets. "

Sounds like the words of someone who doesn't actually have to experience the anguish and despair of the L.A. streets.

Art sells for thousands when you are famous. Street art, is abstract stencils, mosaics, changing billboards around, and being completely original. The rest is graffiti art. Pieces, bombs, art with letters ect. Then... then you have chicken crap writers, which are 90% straight from school and most aren't into "art" but into fame and getting up period. Tagging is a serious addiction, not cheap and jail isn't fun. The fact so many THOUSANDS! Even a old guy named Mr.Brainwash got rich from 2 years of tagging and knowing people. Art, is a beautiful thing.. and to those who compare "taggers" with "graff artists" and "street artists" need to shut up. Reminds me of that article where that lady was crying about the Dodgers but she only went twice in a year, SHUT UP PLEASE. P.S. Montana Gold is a popular spray paint used by top artists, won't find it at Home Depot.


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