End Times: When a Street Art Site Sides With a Museum Over a Street Artist

12.14.10 Bucky Turco

How does a website with the word “vandal” in its URL defend censorship? Like this. Museum director and street art profiteer Jeffrey Deitch said it was his decision to buff Blu’s MoCA mural — coffins wrapped in dollar bills — because of its potential offensiveness. So why would Vandalog defend MoCA’s censorship so enthusiastically? Their Deitch-enamored editor is too young to be this darn conservative!

Deitch said “There were zero complaints, because I took care of it right away.” But not before begging Blu to finish it so he can “document” it for his exhibit catalog, cha-ching. (Blu says he didn’t and won’t.)

The reps of the nearby Go For Broke Monument for the WWII Japanese American vets said they didn’t complain. Yet, here is Vandalog defending Deitch’s self-justifying, weak, manipulative and misleading analogy:

Out of respect for someone who is suffering from lung cancer, you don’t sit in front of them and start chain smoking.

Did he just compare street art to cancer? And how can Jeffrey Deitch possibly know how veterans feel about the piece if he didn’t even ask them? Blu’s mural appears to be responding to the current, financially manipulated wars and not all wars and their veterans, least of all WWII vets. It seems that Deitch and Vandalog are more worried about hypothetically offending a group that may not be all that offended in the first place and that’s disturbing.

Ron English agrees. “I’m not sure that I believe that the vets who fought for freedom are too emotionally delicate to deal with the manifestation of free speech in all its forms.”

Artist Tristan Eaton summed it up in even simpler terms, “A pussy move in my book.”

Faile said they can appreciate both sides of the argument: “[T]his is the work Blu does and art should push a dialogue and sometimes that can be controversial and impacting. It’s a strong piece with a clear and direct message, very arresting and poignant. Kudos to Blu.”

“That being said, across from a VA and a war memorial is somewhat bad taste. It really undermines the sacrifice that many Americans made throughout many wars, provoked or otherwise. It’s an insult to those that really didn’t always have a choice but to be in the fight and the memory of those that didn’t return to have an opinion.”

A jump in logic as far as I’m concerned, but a little more understandable than Vanadalog’s generic take: “I’ve got to stand by Deitch 100% on this. Besides the very legitimate reasons he mentions for removing the mural, his appointment to MOCA was a very controversial one.”

Again, which “legitimate reasons” are they talking about? And yeah his appointment was controversial, because he was an art dealer, not because of his street art tendencies. Plus, it’s irrelevant. Still, the editor presses on. “We don’t live in a perfect world, and this was a pragmatic move which takes into consideration the larger concerns of MOCA and the LA community.” What does that even mean? And isn’t it arrogantly presumptuous to assume that it’s now Deitch’s job to play the role of mayor as well as museum director? His duty is to art patrons. Last I checked, Blu’s mural is the kind of work that 99% of MoCA attendees could stomach just fine. This is Los Angeles we’re talking about right?

Despite Deitch’s spin about it being all good between him and Blu, the street artist told the Los Angeles Times that he was flat-out censored:

It is censorship that almost turned into self-censorship when they asked me to openly agree with their decision to erase the wall. In Soviet Union they were calling it ‘self-criticism.’

Deitch invited me to paint another mural over the one he erased, and I will not do that.

Now that Blu is no longer “okayish” with MoCA’s action, I wonder where that leaves a certain editor? Perhaps Mocalog is more suitable name? Although, last I checked, there wasn’t a sliver of the kind of establishment MoCA art that Vandalog is so dutifully trying to defend on Vandalog.