The Agony and the Ecstasy of LA Murals

“I’m sure there are those who assume Twitchell is now ‘set for life’ because of his settlement with the government, and that he can now retire to the lap of luxury. He is under no obligation to continue being a productive artist, and with his murals coming under attack from every direction, some would ask why doesn’t he just give up. That would be a complete misreading of the artistic spirit. Twitchell has devoted his life’s work to muralism, and knowing his devotion to the art, it’s a certainty he’d much rather have his mural of Ed Ruscha standing in pristine condition than to be awarded a cash settlement – no matter how large. Twitchell’s admonition that muralists ‘cannot coexist’ with graffiti vandals is more an avowal to stand firm than it is a statement of surrender, and in the effort to re-establish the tradition of community based murals – I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with the muralists.”
Kent Twitchell: The End of Muralism?, Mark Vallen, May 4, 2008

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Ginger Mayerson: What are the most important aspects and experiences in your practice of art now?

Leo Limon: I’m Mr. Old G.

GM: What?

LL: Oldie but Goodie. But young people call me Mr. A Old G, which is Ancient Oldie but Goodie. It seems like the youth find there’s no future, you know, so the things they do now, they say ‘Yeah, I smoked for three years, man, I almost killed myself, but you know, I got out of it.’ And I’m looking at this 18 year old kid, and I’m going ‘Yeah, wow, my uncle smoked for 80 years.’

GM: Do they really think there’s no future?

LL: Yeah, the kids I find out there — I’m looking for taggers — and I find them. There’s thousands of them, literally thousands of them, and they’ve grown up, because of the change of times, in a different generation. There used to be a gang, the neighborhood is called whatever it is and the gang would mark the territory (with graffiti that was the name of the gang ED). And then Maria’s or Johnny’s little brother decided to be part of a crew, which is three or four or five or six at the most kids, who go out and tag. Now they’ve learned through Heavy Metal magazine and interpretations of air brush, well, a spray can gives that look.

GM: Are they tagging for a gang for themselves?

LL: Themselves.

GM: Oh, so this is Me-Tagging?

LL: Yeah, Me-Tagging.

GM: I’ve seen some amazing tags in my neighborhood. Especially on the freeway and on billboards. I’m amazed they can do that without killing themselves. I mean, do you consider these taggers to be, like, the new muralists?

LL: No, because these kids know nothing about the local art history, they’re tagging the murals. There’s commercialism in tagging. Like I said, I have a certificate in sign painting, and these guys (taggers ED) are signing, but they’re not saying anything. Their tag, which is their art, is their signature. And they sign them, and they actually put a copyright on them, with a stencil.”
Interview with Leo Limon, J LHLS, June 20, 2005

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“In mid-October (2007), some of the murals were whitewashed without warning. (Gloria) Molina and the Department of Public Works denied involvement, but in December, Molina got the county Board of Supervisors to pass an emergency motion giving the Friends of the Los Angeles River 90 days to paint over the murals or pay up to $70,000 for their removal.

“County crews removed about 60 million square feet of graffiti in 2006 at a cost of about $32 million, county officials have said.

“The Friends group stands by the idea of having art by the river, spokeswoman Shelly Backlar said. But the organization, which is scrambling to rebuild its stock with the county and the agencies that supervise the river, concedes some of what the artists put into the mural might not belong there.

“‘It’s their permit and their event, and we’ve been pulled in because of the work that we do,’ Backlar said. ‘It’s not what we thought it would be.’

“Councilman Ed Reyes, who originally supported Poli’s project and authorized the permit, said he regrets that decision because he believes the art has attracted gang members, who have added their tags to the riverbed walls.

“The graffiti ‘spilled out of the river channel, into the sidewalks, onto the handrails, into buildings,’ Reyes said. ‘Before it was a neutral place, but now we have clear indicators that rival gangs and taggers are showing up there.'”
Graffiti project painting grim picture. L.A. riverbed being turned into art, but critics argue many of images are obscene, inappropriate, by Raquel Maria Dillon, AP, April 6, 2008

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