Angelenos judge art on the streets
When something gets “red-tagged” in Southern California, it usually means someone’s house is about to fall off a cliff after a sizable earthquake. I should know, I had that happen in the 6.9 Northridge quake of 1994. The city inspectors literally tag your door with a foreboding hanging red card, warning homeowners to enter “at their own risk.”
Well now, the act of “red tagging” takes on new meaning. It’s an opportunity for Angelenos to give an immediate visual thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the art they see on the street – work that is planned or unplanned. A privately-supported group of art watchers called MOCA-Latte has launched a site where you can order stickers (for free). You are asked to participate in their quest by affixing the labels onto the work you love or hate. Take a picture, then upload to their site.
How it all started…
The reactionary movement started when the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Jeffrey Deitch, whitewashed a mural he commissioned on the exterior of the MOCA building from Blu, a prominent Italian street artist. The image showed military-style coffins draped with dollar bills instead of American flags (Pic #2). It was to coincide with the opening of the groundbreaking MOCA exhibit on graffiti art called “Art in the Streets.”
Critics called the white-wash “censorship.” Deitch called it being sensitive to the neighborhood — home to a Veterans’ hospital and a war memorial to Japanese-American soldiers.
In response to his act, an anonymous street artist put up a wheatpasted mural near MOCA that depicted Deitch as the Ayatollah Khomeini, dressed in traditional garb, holding a dripping paint roller – fresh from removing Blu’s mural from the museum’s wall.
Deitch’s action inspired robust debates on what should be called art and what museums’ roles should be in showcasing controversial work. According to the mastermind of the red sticker campaign, Nick Douglas, “It’s exciting to see this level of discussion about art in Los Angeles – a pretty rare occurrence in this city.”
APPROVED or DISAPPROVED –“Stick it.”
Now, Los Angeles art watchers have taken to the streets to document their affection for or outrage about the art they see every day. Armed with stickers in hand they’ve begun to express their points of view on work found in back alleys and on exclusive oceanfront property. Some critics have even taken their mission to social media platforms… i.e., “The Gateway” public art project in NOHO (Pic #1) has earned its own “Tear Down the Gateway” page on Facebook. Below, a few more samples of the musings of L.A.’s ad hoc critics.
Whatever you think about the judgements slapped on these works–at least we’re talking.
An anonymous tagger says of the graffitied face above: “DISAPPROVED — some sort of anime ape boy face wheat-pasted to a switching box. Yawn.”
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