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'Art' Review: Untitled Statue of Liberty 1969

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009, at 06:25PM
wheat paste Ed Fuentes

A mid-removal view of a wheat paste version of McNeilly's image on the Mayfair Hotel. The building also sports one of his supergraphic pieces.

Super-graphics manufacturer Michael McNeilly isn’t fooling anyone.

His images of the Statue of Liberty with 1969, now squatting on buildings around Los Angeles, have no connection to legitimate political art––other than that of exploiting it. His constant use of the monochromatic Lady Liberty is executed with no craftsmanship or clear message.

Not clear, that is, until you read the timely press releases from the SkyTag founder, who insists that he is constitutionally protected as an artist to be able to make a political statement wherever he pleases.

At best, McNeilly is a performance artist using the courts as a site-specific stage where he takes on the role of muralist; burdened by controversy that shadows him and prevents his art to be created.

He is not only high-jacking walls, but the legacy of murals on urban space.

Controversy from large-scale works took root in Los Angeles. David Alfaro Siqueiros’ 1932 La América Tropical at Olvera Street was a political message so strong it was censored––only to reappear from under its whitewash decades later.

Year by year, great works are lost to vandalism. In November, the owner of the Boyle Heights building housing Ernesto de la Loza’s 1991 “Resurrection of the Green Planet” was ordered to remove all graffiti from the work with 90 days or face a fine. Unable to find the money needed for a full restoration, the artist himself has spent weeks cleaning up the work.

As for McNeilly, his PR uses current discourse by stating 1969 was a "year of great accomplishments and change in America."

On the SkyTag website, however, 1969 is noted as the year the Mets won the World Series, man first walked on the moon, and "Midnight Cowboy" won Best Picture. It's also the year McNeilly created his first “mural."

His Lady Liberty with 1969 isn’t the advancement of the art of the mural. The continued branding of McNeilly's company that secures walls, not ideas.

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