Photo by ReignmanP
My commute down Fairfax Avenue has pretty heavy street art traffic. One of the recent gems of this stretch of our pot-hole ridden streets is the mural on Fairfax and Rosewood by Retna, Rime, Revok, Norm, Saber, and Os Gêmeos. I was horrified to see an orange Graffiti Control Systems van parked in front of the wall on my way to work Thursday morning. It was being BUFFED! They had just started rolling over Rime’s characters as I drove past. I resisted every impulse to turn back and wrote the tweet in the car when I got to LACMA. I hit “send” the moment I emerged from the underground parking and by the time I got to my desk Saber had hit the timeline with a flood of comments including:
The wall was painted in July 2010, and I remember it was an exciting production. Besides Os Gêmeos being in LA from Brazil, Jeffrey Deitch stopped by and had everyone buzzing about the MoCA show. Almost a year later, LA Taco’s headline pointed out One Week From “Art in the Streets” and Someone is Destroying Art by Famous Artists.
Photo via Melrose & Fairfax
Melrose & Fairfax were the first on the scene and posted the buffing in action. LA Taco looked into Who is Graffiti Control Systems? and posted their Facebook and Yelp pages. It soon became clear that the company had pulled the locked gate off it’s hinges to get to the mural. The buffing was stopped before it covered the whole wall by the outraged owner of the building, actress Julie Newmar. In a comment on the LA Weekly art news blog she said “Trust me, I will get to the bottom of this. The crime will not go unpunished.”
The angry local and street art community took to the web and demanded action. Blogging Los Angeles said “Seeing artwork like this destroyed is disgusting.” FatCap posted about the irresponsible business of buffing legal public art and posed the excellent question, “When are we going to organize ourselves effectively in order to preemptively combat this affront?” By the middle of the day, Graffiti Control Systems Facebook page had been pulled down and their Yelp rating plunged to 1 star. Later, Dennis Romero of LA Weekly spoke to sincerely apologetic company representative, Josh Woods who said “It was a mistake. We did not do it maliciously. It turned out to be misinformation. There was no intent whatsoever to destroy a mural. We were informed by people in the neighborhood that it was an illegal mural and was to come down. As soon as we were informed on site that it was there with permission we ceased removal.” In the article Wood promised that workers would be back the next day and attempt to remove the layer of paint.
Photo via Melrose & Fairfax
True to his word, I passed workers trying to remove buff from the wall on Friday morning. Woods made an updated statement to the LA Weekly “… We were able to remove all of the paint we applied and as we expected some parts of the mural came off but most is intact and looks to be in pretty good shape. And most importantly the overall aesthetic of the mural has been re-established.” He also reiterated that Graffiti Control Systems would like to foot the bill for touch-up.
With the help of many, this beautiful work of public art has survived. But with the battle won, Graffuturism wondered “Will this be a one time mistake? The significance of this mural and the prominence of the artists involved that were painted over will have some serious aftershocks. The disregard of their artistic merit of this mural so close to the opening of MoCA doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Los Angeles. With this new age of Twitter and its viral strength we could see some very widespread action from the artists and its supporters if this continues.”
The fact that many of these artists are included in MoCA’s Art in the Streets exhibition should not obscure the hostile environment they frequently work in. The future of this art movement will be shaped by the people who love it and as Deitch points out “This is only the beginning.”
- Piper Severance