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Taggers attacking outdoor areas near MOCA museum's 'Art in the Streets' exhibit in Little Tokyo, LAPD says [updated]

April 14, 2011 |  1:34 pm



Los Angeles police expressed concern Thursday about a jump in vandalism and graffiti just before the  opening of the "Art in the Streets" exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary museum in Little Tokyo.

Over the last two days, dozens of tags, including monikers and larger so-called bombs have blighted several commercial buildings behind 1st Street as well dumpsters and light poles within a stone's throw of the museum entrance.

"In the last two weeks, we've seen an enormous amount of vandalism in the Little Tokyo area, near the MOCA entrance," said LAPD Officer Jack Richter. "We respect the rights to have an art exhibition but we demand the security of other people's property."

"As former Chief Bratton was found of saying, "if you want to be an artist, buy a canvas," Richter said.

Brian Kito, President of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Assn. and owner of the Fugetosu-do sweet shop, the oldest business in the area, said the museum has reached out to community leaders, previewing the exhibit for them, and encouraging them to contact the museum if there are any problems.

"We are welcoming people that appreciate street art but we hope they are not inspired to show off their work on the buildings outside," Kito said.

The Geffen Contemporary museum website describes "Art in the Streets" as the "first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art."

The exhibition, which opens Sunday and runs through Aug. 8, traces the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s "to the global movement, concentrating on key cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Sao Paulo, where a unique visual language or attitude has evolved," the MOCA website says.

The exhibition will feature paintings, mixed media sculptures and interactive installations by 50 artists emphasizing Los Angeles' "role in the evolution of graffiti and street art, with special sections dedicated to seminal local movements such as cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture."

[Updated, 4:30 p.m.: Museum Director Jeffrey Deitch told our sister blog Culture Monster that MOCA anticipated that what's being billed as the first major U.S. museum exhibition on graffiti and street art could bring unwanted and unauthorized ancillary activity from "some of the young taggers who are anarchic.... It's a language of youth culture, and we can't stop it. It goes with the territory."

But in hopes of minimizing the effect on neighbors, he said, "we're making an extra effort" by instructing security guards patrolling outside the museum to keep an eye on the surrounding neighborhood as well. Deitch declined to give specifics on what that would entail.

He said that if "Art in the Streets" proves to be a strong draw — its unprecedented nature makes it hard to predict attendance — it promises to be a boon to businesses in Little Tokyo. To that end, he said, MOCA is compiling a map and directory of shops and restaurants to hand to museum visitors during the run of "Art in the Streets."

One of the show's hoped-for intangible benefits, he said, is that taggers now spraying illegally might see the exhibition and raise their sights: "We want to put out an inspirational message: 'If you harness your talent you can be in a museum some day, make a contribution and a living from it.' "

"Art in the Streets" runs Sunday through Aug. 8 at the Geffen Contemporary.]

Kito said the community welcomed the exhibit but encouraged anyone with thoughts of tagging nearby to think twice. He said that video cameras had been set up in the area to capture images of anyone committing illegal acts.

It was not immediately clear if the vandalism, which has jumped in area where it is relatively scarce, was directly connected to show, but nonetheless Richter said, "If anyone is caught doing it they are not getting a ticket they are going to jail."


Walls where street art is welcome

L.A.'s street art pioneers paint a colorful history

Veteran graffiti writer leads artists in painting mural on Geffen

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: A show featuring street graffiti is about to open at the Geffen Contemporary museum on 1st Street. Taggers have taken the opportunity to expand the show, spreading their monikers to the walls and trashcans in a nearby alley.  Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times