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Shepard Fairey Mural Marked in Arts District

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010, at 10:19PM
Arts District Defacement Scot Ezzell

Shepard Fairey's “Peace Goddess” mural, seen here, was defaced Wednesday morning by two artists represented by the nearby R&R Gallery.



The Arts District community quickly responded early Wednesday morning after three men were seen scrambling from the roof of Wurstküche after defacing a Shepard Fairey wheat-paste work. By noon the next day, the process to restore it was well underway.

The symbols tagged on Fairey’s “Peace Goddess” piece resemble those on a separate wheat-paste poster on Zip Fusion across the street near east 3rd and Traction, promoting an upcoming show at R & R Gallery. Similar marks were also seen on graffiti walls across the alley from the gallery.

Jeremy Williams of District Millworks located across the street from the mural, recognized the marks as being from R & R Gallery’s current show. He told blogdowntown that he went to the gallery and confronted two artists who at first denied involvement in the tagging before admitting responsibility.

Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA) and LADADspace board member Jonathan Jerald tells blogdowntown he followed up by calling the gallery the next day and spoke with owner C.W. Mihlenberger, who said his gallery represented the two artists. Mihlenberger defended their actions and said they’d defaced the mural because, "it was getting old." The mural was installed in November, 2009.

According to Jerald, after an exchange of calls from him, and pressure from neighborhood advocates, Mihlenberger has agreed to pay for the repair of the Shepard Fairey mural.

Reached for comment, a spokeperson for Fairey said, “Shepard does not think that charges should be pressed against them as long as they are willing to pay for the damage and apologize to [building owner] Mr. [Paul] Solomon.” Solomon has been a long time advocate for art to be placed on his Arts District buildings.

R&R Gallery did not return multiple calls made by blogdowntown for comment on Thursday.

While those behind the markings defend their acts as a critique of overexposure, Arts District locals are calling it vandalism. Daniel Lahoda, who organizes street art placement through L.A. Freewalls Project says, “Shepard Fairey is often a target for those wanting to get their names known.”

Lahoda is responsible for bringing the Fairey installation, an unpaid commission, to the Arts District where it overlooks Joel Bloom Square.

Lahoda, who doubles as a street art curator, now says the wall art should be restored by the end of the week. “Fairey will hand paint the damaged panels this afternoon and the piece will be back in place by the end of the week,” he said.

Murals are from a part of the art world that can lead to unusual politics and the Arts District is seen a safe haven. Fairey’s Hope poster series began appearing in the surrounding blocks months before becoming an icon for new political art (and later the subject of its own controversy).

The action of the unnamed artists may also demonstrate the mixed messages of the street art creed of what is censorship, what is vandalism, and what is expression on buildings.

While Shepard's piece and street art in general is recurring topic around the neighborhood, another LARABA and LADADspace board member, Tim Keating, was at Wurstküche catching up on events of the day before heading toward Winterfest's installation. “It’s the crackling of anarchy,” he said with bemusement.

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