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Guest List: Ten Street Art Stories for 2012

KCET.org's coverage of murals and street art expanded in 2012 by dedicating the name "Writing on the Wall" to the Departures storehouse of columns. More importantly, other voices were to invited to share ideas and thoughts on the aforementioned visual culture in our shared digital public space. We opened with actor/comic and art advocate Cheech Marin talking about "What is a Chicano Artist?" and we close 2012 with an encore by G. James Daichendt, Ed.D., Professor and Exhibitions Director at Azusa Pacific University in southern California and author of "Stay Up. Los Angeles Street Art."


Ten Street Art Stories for 2012

by G. James Daichendt

As a scholar dedicated to studying street art, the following stories made an impact on me and rank among the most important for a genre of art that continues to blur borders and break new ground.

1: MOCA's Image Problem
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles rebranded its image once they hired former gallery director Jeffrey Deitch in 2010 to lead the struggling institution. The champion of the 2011 blockbuster exhibition Art in the Streets, MOCA has since fell on hard times in 2012 and witnessed an unexpected departure of long time chief curator Paul Schimmel, and the all artists that served on the museum's board of directors. Apparently the changing definition of art is too much for the art establishment.

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2: Shepard Fairey found guilty
Shepard Fairey is sentenced to two years probation and fined $25,000 in the criminal contempt case involving his Obama "Hope" print. The artist's embarrassing misstep of destroying evidence in 2009 followed accusations from the AP of copyright infringement. The artist maintained that his usage was under "fair use laws" and settled out of court in 2009. The 2012 verdict saw Fairey escape an anticipated jail sentence.

3: Political Street Art
The presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney provoked quite a bit of politically themed art that was often more intelligent than what you may find on the nightly news. Spirited and raw, these sound bites were a welcome addition to the typical media outlets.

4: Olympic Themed Street Art
In preparation for the Summer Olympics, London cracked down on graffiti, only to see the proponents of graffiti and street art receive international attention for their exploits. The infamous Banksy led the charge with two new pieces just before the opening ceremonies, which featured a javelin thrower launching a missile and a pole-vaulter jumping over a barbwire fence.

5: Taste Like Hate
Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy came under scrutiny for his comments about gay marriage in 2012. In response, street artist Manuel Castro painted the company's signature cow with a re-imagined slogan "Taste Like Hate" on the side of a southern California restaurant. The incident evoked responses from supporters and detractors en masse.

6: L.A. River Targeted
A paper-mache surfer rides along the polluted and embarrassing scar that is the L.A. River. The guerilla art duo of Calder Greenwood and the anonymous Wild Life created a number of urban installations that called attention to political and environmental issues in L.A. Other paper-mache installations included deer grazing along a neglected patch of grass above a subway stop and sunbathers complete with umbrella and chairs in the middle of a city lot that remains desolate for the past five years.

7: Graffiti and Street Art Themed Billboards
LALA Gallery organized a massive exhibition throughout Los Angeles entitled "Public Works" that used existing billboards to highlight an all-star roster of graffiti and street artists. Contexts that are typically reserved for advertising campaigns, it was refreshing to see works by How & Nosm, RISK, and Ron English defy these commercial spaces for artistic creation. The exhibition launched in the Fall and continues to release new artist works in a variety of locals.

8: Miami is a Magnet for Street Art
December in Miami has transformed into the largest art fair/festival/extravaganza in the United States. The esteemed Art Basel fair is at the center with many satellite fairs and pop up galleries surrounding the weekend long event. In the weeks preceding the art fairs, graffiti and street artists from around the globe descended upon many of Miami's neighborhoods to paint legal and illegal works that temporarily make the city the most exciting place to see public art.

9: Vegan Vandals
A mural depicting McDonalds characters on a Huntington Beach wall was defaced with the block letters spelling "Vegan." The cherished mural was originally painted twenty years ago by Iranian immigrant Saeed Danosian to support his family while serving as an employee at McDonald's (he later became a professor of art at Westwood College). The destroyed mural was eventually buffed and Huntington Beach lost what some would call a local landmark. This incident marked a noticeable line between legal and illegal public art in Huntington Beach.

10: Buffman Cleans His Own Graffiti
An employee named Enrique Medrano at Graffiti Protective Coatings Inc. was arrested for cleaning his own graffiti. The Buffman allegedly billed the city more than $2,200 in services for more than 100 tags he created. The graffiti removal company charges close to $100,000 a year to the city for its services and is responsible for keeping the city of Burbank clean of tags. The estimated costs for graffiti removal came as a great surprise to those in the graffiti and street art community that are often charged extraordinary amounts for a single incident.


Top: Cover art for "Stay Up. Los Angeles Street Art."


About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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