MOCA-latte’s Red Sticker Campaign invites Los Angeles to engage in street art by playing Deitch for a day.
Report by Pauline Adamek
On the eve of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MOCA) landmark Art in the Streets exhibition, privately underwritten MOCA-latte commences its Red Sticker Campaign, which invites Angelenos to play “Deitch for a day” by “APPROVING” or “DISAPPROVING” the street art of Los Angeles. The project aims to generate vital discussion and engagement in street art in the wake of the controversy caused by MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch’s decision to whitewash a mural he commissioned from well-known Italian street artist Blu. Deitch removed Blu’s work, an antiwar work which depicted military-style coffins draped with dollar bills instead of flags, from the side of MOCA’s Geffen building in Little Tokyo in an attempt to avoid what he thought might create a political uproar. Ironically, he was then skewered in the art blogosphere for destroying an important creative work.
“The incident piqued my interest, not due to the issue of censorship, or the removal of Blu’s work, but the existence of a newly engaged public talking about art in Los Angeles,” says Nick Douglas, the force behind MOCA-latte, “Deitch and his actions served as a lightening rod for debate regarding the role of the museum and art.”
About The Red Sticker Campaign
To continue this conversation, MOCA-latte is distributing free “APPROVED” and “DISAPPROVED” stickers around the city as part of the group’s Red Sticker Campaign, asking Angelenos to curate LA’s street art for themselves, then post photographic results of their selections on the website, essentially playing “Deitch for a day.” The project is not intended to deface or destroy street art, but to celebrate and engage in it. The stickers are easily removable and won’t damage the art or public property.
“MOCA-latte believes that the longevity and success of MOCA, and our artistic culture in general, depends in large part on the success “we” as a city have at bringing the general population into the artistic community,” says Douglas.
1) Get a free batch of red stickers by emailing your request with full address information to [email protected] Stickers will also be distributed in the coming weeks to retail locations across Los Angeles for easy pick-up. (Locations to be posted here.)
2) Select street art works around Los Angeles to “APPROVE” or “DISAPPROVE.” The street art you choose can be any art developed in public space – graffiti, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting, poster art, other types of art intervention, guerrilla art, etc.
3) Go out and “sticker” the street art works accordingly. We suggest stickers be placed at the edge of the works. (Note: The stickers are removable – not intended to permanently deface the artwork.)
4) Photograph your “APPROVED” and/or “DISAPPROVED” selections with your cell phone or other camera.
5) Email your image as an attachment to [email protected] Please include the street address and city name for the artwork (or closest intersection and city name) in the subject line of your email – that will become the title of your post. Feel free to also include a text-based critique or other commentary in the body of your email – that will also be included in your post as well.
What makes street art worthy of approval or not is up to each participant. Whether the “APPROVED” or “DISAPPROVED” sticker is selected for an individual work, it”™s the individual”™s voice that this campaign seeks to promote.
Art in the Streets at MOCA
MOCA’s Art in the Streets is the first major U.S. museum exhibition of the history of graffiti and street art. The exhibition, which runs from April 17 to August 8, 2011, will trace the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s to the global movement it has become today. It will showcase installations by 50 artists from the graffiti and street art community, including Fab 5 Freddy (New York), Lee QuiÃ±ones (New York), Futura (New York), Margaret Kilgallen (San Francisco), Swoon (New York), Shepard Fairey (Los Angeles), Os Gemeos (Sao Paulo), and JR (Paris). It will also emphasize Los Angeles’s role in the evolution of graffiti and street art, with special sections dedicated to cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture.
One street artist’s response in the Blu whitewashing controversy depicting Deitch as the Ayatollah Khomeini.
MOCA/Blu Whitewashing Scandal
As part of the run-up to the show, Deitch had commissioned well-known Italian graffiti artist Blu, often listed as one of the brightest lights of the worldwide graffiti art scene, to paint a colossal mural on the side of MOCA’s Geffen building in Little Tokyo in Downtown LA. After the artist worked uninterrupted for 6 days on his anti-war and anti-capitalist mural that featured coffins draped with dollar bills, Deitch quickly ordered the whitewashing of the mural, apparently in an effort to avoid a political uproar. Instead, however, Deitch’s act ignited a controversy in the community and he was accused of blatantly censoring and destroying an important piece of political art. Protests ensued in various forms including a few street art works critical of Deitch’s actions. In one, for example, 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 with outstretched arm – fresh from removing Blu’s mural from the museum’s wall.
“It was exciting to see this level of discussion about art in Los Angeles – a pretty rare occurrence in this city,” says Douglas, “Inspired by these developments, my objective in starting MOCA-latte is to further discussion and engagement in art locally, which I see as vital elements for a healthy cultural center.”
MOCA-latte is a privately underwritten group seeking to provide, at no public cost, a spark to ignite essential discussions about art in Los Angeles. The organization’s goal is to serve as a catalyst for local dialogue on the arts leading to greater public awareness of our museums, broader public attention, increased attendance, and true public ownership of our city’s established culture. The Red Sticker Campaign, MOCA-latte’s inaugural project, aims to provide a forum for the public to continue the conversation that was ignited by MOCA‘s whitewashing of BLU’s mural. The campaign takes no formal position on issues — the intention is not to broadcast specific opinions, but to encourage debate. MOCA-latte encourages anyone associated with or interested in the art form to speak up and join in the conversation.
What do you think?
Should street art be subject to art world institutionalization on the same platform as other art forms? What role does the public play in street art? Is Deitch properly curating the history and artists of the movement? Is MOCA breaking ground? Is the exhibit revitalizing for MOCA as far as demographics, attendance, revenue, and relevance in the museum community? Is Los Angeles’ awareness of art lackluster compared to other cities? Is MOCA a reflection of that dynamic?