From blogger Viewfromaloft:
“With the skills of a proven underground political artist, a move by the County was completed to evade public debate, disregard any potential compromise in discussion, while sneaking under the holiday radar.
“That’s what you come away with when you learn the Meeting of Styles murals, organized in September by the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) and [graf artist Man One’s] Crewest Gallery, was sideswiped by Los Angeles Country Supervisor Gloria Molina. County reps, who are regarding their own paperwork and permits [silent], managed to have [the County Supervisors] switch from supporting the project to backing Molina’s demand that the newest murals in Arroyo Seco be whitewashed.
“Not making it easier for FOLAR and Crewest––and any future sponsored works––are the taggers that have marked the same walls. That includes the tagger who posted a threat to Molina after the initial reports that a portion [of the mural, including the “Cultivate Love” piece] was whitewashed mysteriously after a meeting with organizers and Molina’s office. That threat prompted an order that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department question Man One.
“LA Weekly reports that last Tuesday, Molina introduced an emergency measure to the County Board of Supervisors requiring FOLAR [whose sole financial involvement in this project was buying pizza for the gallery opening – J.B.] to whitewash the rest of the mural at their cost. The article says ‘the motion was quickly seconded by Supervisor Don Knabe, who called the mural “outrageous,” and was then carried without further discussion or public debate.'”
“The motion requires the murals be removed in 90 days, or FOLAR will be billed by the Department of Public Works if/when they proceed to take down the mural themselves.
“It [is] curious how so many artists with permits, and an organization that consulted with the Army Corps of Engineers, [on] a project that began with previous support of City Hall, that took numerous calls to confirm paperwork for a two-day weekend event –– moreso since it had to be rescheduled due to rain––managed to slip past Molina’s office.
“Molina is not only whitewashing a mural, she is covering up a lapse of internal communication, and willing place all the blame, and costs, on a non-profit organization that [steered] a mural project through red tape.”
“As many of you know, the Meeting of Styles event was a beautiful thing. Hundreds of artists working side by side in unity, creating some wonderful master pieces of self-expression as a gift to the people of L.A..
“We’ve received nothing but congratulations from artists, community leaders, local activists, businesses, community groups, and citizens alike for putting on this event.
“Unfortunately, a small minority of people don’t believe in unity and public self expression, even when done legally and with permission. Some people still prefer to hold a negative viewpoint on anything created by young people of color, especially if the preferred art tool is a spray can.
“There is a controversy brewing in the Arroyo Confluence where the murals were painted. Someone has decided to go down there and vandalize the mural by buffing out about 300 feet of the artwork. No one has claimed responsibility or admitted to giving the order to buff.
“It’s obvious that it was done ‘professionally’ and not by a couple of guys with rollers. Whoever did this had to have driven down to the river fully equipped with spray guns, a compressor, and several 5 gallon buckets full of dull grey paint. Although they didn’t finish the job, they were able to destroy enough of it to make you sick to your stomach.
“Who would do such a thing? Although there are many speculations, we don’t know for certain who committed this act of censorship. The only thing certain is that it was someone who doesn’t believe in art or fears it greatly.
“Public radio stations have gotten wind of this story and contacted us and FoLAR about it. This week, Man One and Lewis MacAdams were on the air of KPFK’s popular morning show, ‘Uprising’ to discuss the matter.
Haircuts by Ernie the barber are given here every Monday afternoon.
One of the new surrealists will be back later for his coat.
He whose shadow fills this silhouette at the appointed time and day is declared prince of the river for the next year.
And plans to bill FoLAR for removal of art
Apparently nostalgic for the days when the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River was merely a barren, concrete wasteland, Los Angeles Country Supervisor Gloria Molina introduced an emergency measure to the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that would force Friends of the Los Angeles River [whose sole financial involvement in this project was buying pizza for the gallery opening – J.B.] to whitewash the remains of the mural from the renowned international graffiti festival Meeting of Styles from the flood walls. The motion was quickly seconded by Supervisor Don Knabe, who called the mural “outrageous,” and was then carried without further discussion or public debate.
Held in Los Angeles for the first time since 2004, after stops in Brazil and Bulgaria, among other places, Meeting of Styles was a collaboration of FoLAR, Crewest Gallery and over 100 graffiti artists from around the world and drew thousands of people to the otherwise blighted area of Highland Park to watch the creation of the giant mural. County records indicate that organizers secured all necessary permits for the mural, and that the event, which was covered by the Weekly, was fully licensed by the County.
A few weeks later, the mural made headlines when a large chunk of the art was mysteriously whitewashed from the north wall of the Arroyo Seco channel after Molina publicly expressed outrage over its content. Molina’s office denies they were involved in the whitewashing.
On October 18th Molina and several members of her staff met with Friends of the Los Angeles River and, according to FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams, expressed outrage that some additional, unauthorized graffiti had popped up in the area. Still, news of the emergency measure came as a complete shock to FoLAR members, who were under the impression they had come to an understanding with Molina’s people. “We reached an agreement with Gerry Herzberg (Molina’s Policy and Political Director) that we would remove additional graffiti that had sprung up around the mural one time,” says MacAdams. “Then, suddenly, they wanted us to remove it in perpetuity. Now, without even putting it on the agenda, so we could show up to defend ourselves and generate some public debate, they expect us to get rid of the mural itself. It’s insane.”
Molina spokeswoman Roxane Marquez calls the mural a “public nuisance and a potential safety hazard,” citing the death of two constituents in graffiti-related violence earlier in the year. She justifies Molina’s decision to introduce the mural’s removal as an emergency measure by saying the county is “trying to save lives” — a notion that infuriates Meeting of Styles curator and renowned Los Angeles graffiti artist Man One.
“This isn’t gang graffiti – people marking off their neighborhood or their territory,” he says. “This is art. We just happen to use spray-cans. But they’re trying instill fear in people to get their way. This was a great, positive event that brought out thousands of artists and neighborhood people to one of the ugliest, most neglected areas of the city, and now they’re trying to turn it into something else.”
“When you have a permit to create a mural, and then you have to remove it because someone in power doesn’t like it, without any dialogue, that’s censorship. That’s a dictatorship.”
FoLAR now has 90 days to remove the mural or be forced to foot the bill when the Department of Public Works does it for them. No further public hearings are scheduled on the matter.
After the whitewash
Friday Dec 14, downriver from the Hyperion Bridge, Atwater side
Photo by Carmelo Gaeta, who says, “Sort of at a loss of words for this one. I got a religious vibe with these women. Off to the left, out of camera were a few people all dressed in white. The sight was pretty weird, and once my eyes focused on the naked lady getting baptized, things went from weird to extraordinary. I immediately thought about the Ganges River [see below] and how millions of people use that river for holy reasons and it’s considered a holy river, so why not El Rio Porciuncula?”
(Above photo by Mark Mauer for LAWeekly; more photos here.)
November 02, 2007
About a month ago, the Friends of the Los Angeles River received permits to hold a two-day mural painting event where the river meets the Arroyo Seco. The purpose was to beautify hundreds of feet of drab concrete banks. But the project’s turned sour. Event organizers say an L.A. County supervisor called a meeting afterward to criticize the murals’ content and demand their removal. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The September 28th event attracted about 200 artists from L.A., San Diego, and the Bay Area. Each one used spray paint to create graffiti-style murals on 12-foot sections of concrete.
The day’s sponsors knew that many of these artists had painted on other walls without permission. That’s beside the point, they said, because they intended this event to help residents reconsider the concrete walls as a social sculpture instead of a flood control channel.
Alex Poli – he goes by the name Man One – is a longtime graffiti artist, gallery owner, and organizer of the mural event. From a bridge overlooking the Arroyo Seco, he described a mural created with red, yellow and navy blue spray paint.
Man One: It’s a beautiful piece by Mear. Mear is, like, one of L.A.’s best known graffiti artists. The piece actually says “cultivate love.” And it had an image of a woman painting a flower in the ground.
Guzman-Lopez: “Had,” Man One said, because a couple of weeks ago someone painted over part of Mear’s mural and many others with large swaths of gray paint. Such large swaths, he said, that he believes a municipal graffiti removal crew did the job.
Man One suspects L.A. County officials are responsible, even though the permit to paint in the channel came from the county’s department of public works.
His suspicions arise from an early October meeting called by L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina. The supervisor was furious, Man One said, and she loudly demanded that Friends of the L.A. River paint over the murals because some contained what she called sexist images and others ridiculed police. Man One and another person at the meeting said Molina added that the permitted murals would generate illegal graffiti and violence among competing taggers.
Man One: She views all graffiti art as graffiti, as vandalism. And that was evident. She didn’t care about, she didn’t care about a mural that said “Cultivate Love,” she didn’t care about a mural that was talking about the creatures of the river; to her it’s all the same.
Guzman-Lopez: At least one mural visible to pedestrians depicts a woman in tight fitting clothes. Man One said none of the works depicted police in a negative light. A spokeswoman for Gloria Molina said the supervisor didn’t order the murals painted over. That was all the comment her office would offer.
L.A. City councilman Ed Reyes denied that city crews painted over the murals. He lent his support when organizers proposed the mural project. Upon further questioning Reyes conceded he shares Molina’s view about the downside of legal graffiti.
Ed Reyes: What was permitted, was permitted, that was a fact. But what tended to happen was you had a whole other by-product of other type of graffiti that came along with it.
Guzman-Lopez: The debate’s far from over. Friends of the L.A. River and Man One plan to stage a similar but much larger mural event a year from now. For the time being, Man One is focusing his attention on a future commission. The City of Pasadena, he said, wants him to craft a graffiti mural for one of its administration buildings.
Saturday, December 8 – “THIS IS THE LA RIVER” AT FARMLAB/UNDER SPRING – 7 PM
“Join us for the debut screening and potluck dinner at Farmlab/Under Spring (1745 N. Spring St., Unit 4), next to the LA River in downtown Los Angeles. Also showing: Sustainable LA, a program of short films about greening the urban environment curated by Echo Park Film Center.
FREE EVENT! FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE!
“This Is The LA River, an EPFC Youth Documentary Project, invited 20 neighborhood teens between the ages of 14 and 19 to explore the River through the medium of 16mm film. Over a 12-week period, the group worked with activists, historians, environmentalists, artists and residents to create a unique picture of the great waterway’s complex past, present and future.