Buffing censorship at Crewest
Sadly Los Angeles is not unfamiliar with censorship. Mexican muralist David A. Siqueiros’ América Tropical was whitewashed in 1932 because the mural was “unpleasant” and it did not fit the civic leaders’ idea of the romantic and idealized past they wanted to convey to the tourists arriving at El Pueblo de Los Angeles. It is unfortunate that seventy-eight years later artists are still facing censorship.
Writers, photographers, artists, academics, and art historians joined the cool scene of spectators that gathered at Crewest Gallery in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles on the opening of Things that get buffed (2/5/11-2/27/11). Pablo Cristi, Phantom Street Artist, John Carr, Mark of the Beast, Sahl, Larry Yust, Man One, Leo Limon, and Mear One exhibited artworks that reflect their strong opposition to art censorship, a reaction to the censorship that occurred recently at MOCA.
Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) whitewashed the anti-war mural (floating money-draped coffins) painted by Italian urban artist Blu. The mural was commissioned by MOCA, but according to the museum’s director, Blu’s artwork was “inappropriate.” It is difficult to understand how a commissioned work in an urban/street artist show could be deemed inappropriate. The mural was commissioned by the museum in advance of its upcoming "Art in the Streets" show next April.
But Los Angeles is not alone. Late artist David Wojnarowicz’s views on a video about AIDS and death, prompted the Smithsonian to remove A Fire in My Belly from the privately funded exhibition at the museum, because the video was “sacrilegious,” and criticized by several recently victorious Republicans in Washington.
Los Angeles’ Crewest gallery and the artists showcased in Things that get buffed are contributing to a conversation about censorship, a conversation which should be understood as the responsibility of a museum such as the Smithsonian or MOCA. This is a conversation about art and culture as much as it is about censorship.
Apparently, not much has changed since Siqueiros’ América Tropical was whitewashed by the civic leaders of the early twentieth century. It is commendable that Crewest Gallery and the participating artists are taking a stand. Artists who paint with conviction and passion are still feared and sometimes censored even in the twenty-first century.