Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blu in Los Angeles

The LA Museum of Contemporary Art recently asked Italian artist Blu to paint a mural on its exterior walls. The partnership made sense given MOCA's stated interest in contemporary artists and Blu's widely popular graffiti aesthetic as a painter and videographer. And how timely! The mural would be in place in time for MOCA's exhibition of street art scheduled to open in April.

Go, Blu! He worked diligently on the mural as the museum's leaders were attending an international art event in Miami, and was nearly done by the time they returned. But therein was a problem - they returned. With only a few days left before Blu could finish loading the walls up with images of coffin-hugging dollar bills, MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch handed him a cease-and-desist order. A few days later, what had been shaping up as a potent anti-war statement was whitewashed out of existence. Unfortunately for the museum, the whitewashing has left it apparently veiled in gentle sheets of toilet paper (see below).

In the wake of this, people are debating whether the museum is guilty of censorship. It's an interesting discussion...I suppose...for those who have a distaste for evidence. There's a broader, more interesting question to be asked, one that kicks at the shins of art as a commodity. Would any museum present contemporary art (particularly street art) if the museum couldn't blunt its political power with contextualizing placards and docent tours? This was asked by quite a few people in Boston during last year's ICA mega-exhibition of work by street artist Shepard Fairey.

Read what Fairey, on whose coaster your coffee mug might now be resting, has to say about the incident in the December 14 edition of the LA Times. Better yet, for a worthwhile read, bookmark Blu's blog and read it every once in a while. Also, watch the short video Muto for an example of his work. Quite amazing is he.