Murakami “Akihabara Majokko Princess” with Kirsten Dunst

February 25 2010 . 03:51pm

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The Day of Sharing

August 25 2009 . 02:14pm

The Seventh Letter

 

This isn’t called the seventh letter because it’s the seventh e-mail (it’s not even that). This is about the legal arm of the largest graffiti crew in the country (probably the world), called The Seventh Letter. Bear with me. This does apply in an abstract way to our business.

While still studying filmmaking at Chapman University (awesome film school by the way – blows USC out of the water), our eldest son Keegan directed a documentary about graffiti titled Piece of Mind. He has always been fascinated with street art of all sorts, from random scribbles to Shepard Fairey, Banksy, and Robbie Conal.  During the filming of the movie he became quite familiar with the artists and ethos involved in graf, and so by extension I did as well (albeit to a much smaller degree). Two crews in particular are featured in his film – MSK and AWR. These guys are the artists (or vandals if you prefer) behind the The Seventh Letter.

The guys who are good at graffiti are amazing artists, all the more so because they do their art at a breakneck pace while perched on a narrow scaffold 30 feet or more above the ground in the wee hours of the night, ducking whenever a car goes by. Granted there are plenty of guys that just make a random mess of everything in sight – but the ones who do it right are beyond.

Where it gets interesting is in the crossroads of art, ethics, money, and law. Back in 2007 there was a fantastic exhibit at the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art featuring the artwork of Murakami. For those of you not familiar with Murakami, suffice it to say he is kind of the Andy Warhol of Japan, but bigger. MOCA put up huge pink billboards around town promoting the show that basically just said MURAKAMI in big white letters. Two of the MSK guys, Revok and Augor, bombed one of the billboards one night. Murakami saw a photo of the result, then had the billboard taken down and shipped to Japan for his personal collection. Even though it was illegal art Murakami appreciated the beauty of the work.

 


Have you ever noticed that graffiti on billboards only goes so high? Makes sense when you think about it – the artists can only reach to about a foot over their heads and the bottoms of the billboards are usually at least several feet above the scaffolds.

Now check this out:

 


 

 


Notice that the artist, Augor, has pretty much covered the billboard of There Will Be Blood from top to bottom? How did he pull that off? There is a clue if you look closely. Look at the big wrinkles in the canvas in the lower left hand corner. You get it?  They simply went down to Melrose late one night and actually stole the billboard – or more accurately the canvas that covers it. Ballsy, ya? They then took it to another location where Augor could repaint it ,top to bottom, at his leisure. Then, in the ballingest move ever, they went back a couple of nights later and put it back up!! They didn’t quite have the gear and/or the technique to stretch the canvas completely taut, hence the wrinkles. wThis made the nightly news on Fox – the anchors couldn’t seem to decide whether they were outraged or amused. Look really close at the shoutout at the bottom. Don’t ask.

I tracked down the guy at Paramount Pictures who is in charge of billboard advertising for the studio. Here is the exchange (with his name redacted):


Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 8:05 PM
To: xxxx – Paramount Vantage
Subject: Melrose billboard

Hello xxxx,

I am betting that you are aware of the ‘There Will Be Blood’ billboard

on Melrose just east of Highland and the alteration thereof. I would

like to know what Paramount’s intentions are with this – are you going

to leave it up for the rest of the rental period as is? Are you going

to replace it? And in either case, what will you do with the canvas?

Would you be so kind as to give me a call?

Thank you,

Richard Gibbs

Good Morning Richard

Wondering what your interest is in this, and how you got my contact information?

Have a nice day

xxxx

Media and Promotions

Paramount Vantage

Hello xxxx

I don’t know if you’re aware, but that guy’s graffiti has become somewhat collectible. There was a piece about that billboard on Fox News Tuesday night that piqued my interest. I am wondering if Paramount will sell it.

To answer your other query – I am a film composer here in town (I’ve actually scored two Paramount pix in the past, amongst 50 others), so I simply asked my agent to find who the marketing guru was at Paramount.

All right, your turn. My questions remain. Call me if you like.

Richard

Well he never called, so I thought it best not to press my luck. Still wondering what became of that piece – it’s worth a pretty penny in the right (or wrong) circles. Those canvases normally cost about $10,000 each – I was prepared to pay at least that for Augor’s superimposed masterpiece.

Now I’m sure some of you are outraged at graffiti, regardless of the quality. We are talking about destruction (or at least alteration) of private property. But is it really private? Just as Christian Engström of the Pirate Party argues that once a piece of music is published that it belongs to the public, one could make a case that these billboards exist in the public sphere. Why do the billboard manufacturers alone get to alter the public view? Personally I prefer the work the graf artists do over the mass printed ads anyway. I read in the LA Weekly that there are over 4,000 billboards in the city that are illegal – no permits issued for them. So I’d say they are fair game. TDOS indeed!

The Seventh Letter makes and sells t-shirts, hoodies, and some pretty cool jewelry.  They also represent their artists for legit commercial purposes, corporate branding and art gallery shows around the world. Their sites: artist management – www.knowngallery.com; jewelry – www.tslarmor.com; and apparel, skatedecks, and other assorted merch – www.knowngallerystore.com. They don’t make money directly from their art (for the most part) but they do make money by marketing their outlaw image – legally. One of the pro-filesharing arguments is that musicians should do the same. I say they are right – but let’s go all the way. If we can’t make money legally let’s go illegal. Not sure exactly what I mean by that but I’m working on it. Any ideas? These Seventh Letter guys are creating art and making money, thinking outside the law, let alone the box.

Another morsel in this food for thought piece. Revok was playing the newest edition of Grand Theft Auto when something caught his eye. In the desire to establish realism the coders who made the game had scanned in one of his illegal graf pieces. Revok contacted the company behind GTA, claiming copyright infringement – and received a hefty payment for the use of his work.

Strange world we live in, yes?

RG

 

Find out more at TheDayofSharing.com

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My man REVOK and AUGOR make news on Kanye West’s blog

May 06 2009 . 07:46pm

Find out more on Kanye’s blog, REVOK1.com and Augsdraws.com

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Murakami REVOKED

February 01 2008 . 05:48pm

By Shelley Leopold

In the early morning hours in mid-December, an amazing masterpiece of epic pink proportions appeared above the Melrose strip. Not MOCA’s Murakami billboard itself, but rather a young curator’s fantasy art show: "Murakami/AUGOR/REVOK." The spectacle lasted two days, and then it was gone. For most of us who missed it entirely, the billboard became art-opening gossip – already a mythic achievement – and yet another coup pulled off by a couple of L.A.’s most prolific and talented AWR/MSK writers.

murakami.jpg

Luckily, REVOK carried his camera that day, and L.A. Weekly received the photo; we were wowed. So, it turns out, was Murakami, whose Kaikai Kiki studio found the evidence via the Internet and had the billboard surreptitiously removed. Murakami buffing billboards all the way from Japan? On the contrary, according to his representatives, he found it "so wonderful, he had to have it for his collection." Our billboard is now on its way to Tokyo.

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Murakami x Revok x Augor

December 16 2007 . 08:02pm

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