RETNA – West Hollywood Library | Carlos Gonzalez

July 19 2011 . 04:30pm

These amazing photos by: Carlos Gonzalez of

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REVOK | First person ever to tag the cover of The Wall Street Journal

May 26 2011 . 03:49pm

REVOK is the first person in history to ever tag the cover of The Wall Street Journal. The best part is that he did it from a jail cell.

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REVOK on the cover of the WALL STREET JOURNAL

May 26 2011 . 01:37am

As Their Work Gains Notice, These Painters Suffer for Their Art
Mainstream Success Puts Graffiti Artists in Law-Enforcement’s Sights—and in Jail

LOS ANGELES—To the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Revok is a renowned artist whose bright, sprawling work is worthy of display in its latest exhibit.

To the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Revok is Jason Williams, also known as inmate No. 2714221.

Last month, Mr. Williams was sentenced to 180 days in county jail as a result of a probation violation from a graffiti incident, just days after the opening of a major museum exhibit dedicated to "street art" that features his work. Unable to post his $320,000 bail, Mr. Williams sat in jail for four days before the sentencing.

It may be illegal on the street, but inside the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, a new exhibit celebrates the history of graffiti, featuring work by artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey. WSJ’s Tammy Audi reports.

Law-enforcement officials around the country are prosecuting graffiti artists with harsher sentences than ever, pushing for felony charges, real prison time and restitution payments as they seek to wipe graffiti from the streets. At the same time, the art world and corporations are embracing the form like never before."You can make a case that graffiti and street art is the most influential art movement since the great innovations of the ’60s," says Jeffrey Deitch, director of the L.A. museum, known as MOCA. "Before this show, no American museum had ever done an ambitious historical exhibition."

Law enforcement sees this as a historic moment as well: "This is really the first time in the history of law enforcement that we’re making significant gains on identifying who the [graffiti] taggers are, and building a case against them," says Lt. Vince Carter, who heads the sheriff’s graffiti unit. "We’re in this war against graffiti and we’re doing everything to stop it."

In years past, authorities usually didn’t go out of their way to prosecute the artists, most of whom use pseudonyms to protect their identities.

Now, law-enforcement officials in major cities around the country are sharing information, creating catalogs of graffiti work by artist. Police can use evidence of past vandalism to obtain search warrants, and "stack" charges to prosecute graffiti vandalism as a felony.

Shepard Fairey, the L.A.-based graffiti artist famous for his portrait of President Barack Obama, which hangs in the Smithsonian, was arrested in Boston in 2009 on his way to celebrate a museum exhibit of his work. Mr. Fairey was eventually charged with 30 felonies for putting stickers and posters on stop signs and guard rails. Mr. Fairey disputed the charges.

Most of the charges were dropped, but Mr. Fairey was sentenced to two years probation for misdemeanor vandalism and prohibited from carrying stickers in Boston, his attorney said.

Police worry that graffiti exhibits encourage vandalism. But graffiti’s popularity has also helped their cause, as once-elusive artists come out of the shadows. "I think when law enforcement can identify a well-known graffiti artist, then that artist will become a target," says Ton Chi Nguyen, Mr. Williams’s lawyer. He says Mr. Williams "does not view himself as a tagger or a vandal. He views himself as an artist."

The street-art show at The Geffen Contemporary—one of the facilities at MOCA—features a neon-painted ice-cream truck topped with a cigar-smoking clown head. It has drawn thousands of visitors.

Some graffiti artists sell their work at private galleries or online. Others are hired by corporations to design ad campaigns or special products. In some cases, they are hired to paint murals. The works of the street artist known as Banksy, who hides his identity, have produced international fame and led him to create an Oscar-nominated documentary. In 2008, Sotheby’s sold a painting by another artist "which Banksy has defaced" for $1.8 million. Adidas and Pepsi have hired graffiti artists to create designs and marketing campaigns for their products.

Mr. Williams may be the only prisoner in L.A.’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility previously commissioned by Levi’s to design a jacket. (On sale at the MOCA exhibit for $250).

Mr. Williams, 34, a prolific painter active in Los Angeles since the late 1990s, has said he wanted to be a graffiti artist since he was a teenager.

Last month in Los Angeles, he was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to Ireland, where he was hired to paint a mural. He was arrested on a warrant for violating the terms of his probation stemming from a 2009 vandalism incident in Los Angeles. Mr. Williams failed to report for community service picking up roadside trash and didn’t pay $3,500 restitution to cover the cost of removing the graffiti, his lawyer and sheriff’s department officials said.

Prior to his 2009 arrest, investigators had been on the trail of Revok for years. "I’m happy he’s been identified and captured, and now he has to pay for what he was doing," says Randy Campbell, a retired California Highway Patrol Officer who now helps cities trying to fight graffiti.

Law enforcement officials say they are responding to community demands to combat graffiti. Police say they aren’t making a judgment on whether graffiti is art. As long it is painted on public property without permission, it’s a crime. Los Angeles spends $10 million a year to scrub the stuff off walls.

"These vandals don’t have any respect for property," Mr. Campbell says. He added that Mr. Williams’s work "was half-way decent. It was big puffy letters, multiple colors, nice shadowing."

Lt. Carter, the Sheriff Department’s antigraffiti guru, says that "out of curiosity" he went to the MOCA show where he was struck by the sight of a decommissioned municipal bus painted over by an artist named Risk. "Now people are going to see that bus and want to write something on some other bus. That’s my job to stop that graffiti on that bus," he said.

As for the artistic merits of the rest of the show: "I refrain from passing judgment."

Write to Tamara Audi at:


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March 08 2011 . 01:18pm

Obey Giant Art x Subliminal Projects x Robert Berman Gallery are proud to present REVOLUTIONS, a project featuring the Album Cover Art of Shepard Fairey. On exhibition from March 12th thru April 23rd at Robert Berman’s C2 Gallery, will be over 80 pieces of Punk, Rock, New Wave, Jazz, and Hip-Hop inspired artwork based on the 12″ record cover format. To mark this occasion, two special Limited Edition Album Cover Print Box sets will be released for the exhibition. Please join us for the opening celebration on Saturday, March 12th, 8-11pm.

“Long before I knew about art galleries or even street art, I was excited about album cover art, if only because it was the visual counterpart to the music on the records I loved. Album covers conjured a euphoric association with the listening experience. Most of my earliest home-made tee shirts were stencils based on punk album covers. I’ve had some very moving encounters with art in my life, especially in the street, but almost nothing can compare with the first time I heard the boots marching and first chord of the Sex Pistols’ Holidays in the Sun, or the air raid sirens leading into “too black, too strong” on the intro to Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, or the opening guitar scream of Black Flag’sRise Above. Those songs did, and still do, make my arm hairs stand up. Music is visceral and accessible, but also has the additional powerful layers of the lyrics, with their content and politics, and the style,politics, and personalities of the musicians themselves. No matter how much I love art, or try to convince myself of its relevance in society, the fact remains that music is a lot cooler and way more able to reach people’s hearts and minds… but I’m a populist and I look at this way: I may not play an instrument, but I’m gonna rock it hard as nails anyway. With my art I try to capture the same energy and spirit that makes music so powerful and democratic. REVOLUTIONS is a celebration of all the great music and accompanying art that has inspired me over the years.”
– Shepard

The Album Cover Art of Shepard Fairey

Opening Reception:
March 12th, 2011, 8-11pm

Musical performances by:
Dan The Automator
DJ Shepard Fairey
music presented by Soul Kitchen

Exhibition Dates:
3/12 – 4/23/11

Robert Berman Gallery C2
2525 Michigan Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90404

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Dreams Deferred: Artists Respond to Immigration Reform

November 30 2010 . 07:23pm

The Chinese American Museum (CAM) and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is proud to present Dreams Deferred:
Artists Respond to Immigration Reform opening on December 10, 2010. This exhibit will showcase local artists exploring the
tensions, repercussions, hopes, and dreams of immigrant communities in the face of new immigration legislation, through a broad
spectrum of art including street art, graffiti art, sculptures, painting and multimedia installations.

U.S. immigration laws have long reflected a lasting legacy of racial exclusion starting with the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first
legislation to restrict immigration based on race and ethnicity. This legacy of immigration legislation targeting immigrant communities
has since reemerged in the recent decades with California’s Proposition 187, and Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, as attempts at inhibiting
the livelihoods of undocumented immigrants.

Dreams Deferred continues the current national dialogue about immigration, kicked-off by the recent opening of CAM’s Remembering
Angel Island, an exhibition commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the opening of the West Coast’s first immigration station.
Both exhibitions will serve to shed light on the parallels of past and current immigration policies and reform, and how Los Angeles’
diverse immigrant communities collectively share not only their immigrant histories, but also many of the challenges facing new
immigrant communities today.

Artists participating in this exhibit include:

Augustine Kofie
Eriberto Oriol
Ernesto Yerena Montejano
Jesus Barraza of Dignidad Rebelde
Joel "" Garcia
John Carlos De Luna
K. Lovich
Oscar Magallanes
Patrick Martinez
Sand One
Shark Toof
Shepard Fairey
O.G. Slick

Also featuring videos by DreamActivist Tam Tran (1982-2010)

Curated by Tim Jieh and Steven Wong

Exhibition Dates:
December 10, 2010 to May 22, 2011

Opening Reception:
December 9, 2010 6:00PM-8:30PM

Chinese American Citizens Alliance
Grand Lodge Friends of the Chinese American Museum
Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles

Asian Pacific American Legal Center
Mid-City Arts
Self Help Graphics
The UCLA Labor Center
Community Partners
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
IDEAS (Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success) at UCLA
JACL Pacific Southwest District
Southeast Asian Community Alliance
UCLA Asian American Studies Center

Exhibition Advisors:
Eyeone Viejas Del Mercado

Museum Location Hours and Information
The Chinese American Museum
425 N. Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Museum Hours: 10am-3pm, Tuesday – Sunday
For more information (213) 485-8567

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