Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category


Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Originally Published TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2012
Article by Modesto Anarcho (

Imagine relaxing in your apartment after work with your family to hear a knock at the door. Upon answering it, you learn that it’s the local police department and they have a warrant to search you home. You sign the paper as they barge through the door and go straight to your room. They leave, only after taking your drawings, silk-screens, books, and take pictures of your stickers and signatures of friends who have passed through. Later in court, you learn that the police were given false information that you were a well known graffiti artist by a snitch that was arrested for vandalism. They use pictures of stickers of famous graffiti artists and tags of your friends to convict you of being someone you are not. You now are facing months and possibly more in jail…

This story isn’t a hypothetical situation, it actually happened to a young Delhi man named Paul Lopez. Recently,Modesto Anarcho began corresponding with Paul, aka “PJ,” who this winter was found guilty of a felony and a misdemeanor count of vandalism, as well as violating his probation, for the crime most commonly referred to as graffiti. The crimes that Lopez is accused of committing took place sometime in late 2009 to early 2010. Lopez is accused of spray painting “MUSKET,” the handle for a prominent graffiti writer, across the wall of a Delhi Mexican restaurant. But while PJ is accused of these crimes by the police in the previously mentioned window of time, the Delhi Express reported that the restaurant was in-fact painted in July of 2009, almost half a year before PJ was accused of the graffiti. During his trial, Lopez was also accused by the DA’s office of being yet another graffiti writer, RESON.

This is not the first time that PJ has been arrested for graffiti. Several years ago he was found by police out at night with art supplies and pled guilty to vandalism charges. Despite this incident, PJ remains a creative and talented artist. However, it was his background and previous arrest that was used in part by the courts to help portray PJ as the vandal in question.

Whenever we hear about cases of graffiti artists being locked up by the state and the victims of police harassment and raids on their homes, our hearts go out to them. We understand the war on graffiti and the largely poor and working class people who engage in it to be part of an effort by the state to attack rebellious behavior and enforce property relations. As we wrote in Modesto Anarcho #14: “[G]raffiti…is a culture and an art form that comes from us. From the urban poor. The working class. The criminal element…despite every attempt to commercialize it, it stays illegal and autonomous from corporations and the rich. Graffiti does not ask for space. It takes space.


Lawsuit against AEG and Ritz-Carlton for Destroying Valuable Artwork

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

( Article submitted by Erica Hess )                                                           

Zohar Law Firm, P.C. Files Lawsuit against AEG and Ritz-Carlton Residences for Destroying Valuable Artwork

 — Works of World Class Artists Valued at $100,000 Discarded —

Shark Toof Law Suit.
(Photo by Khoi Nguyen/

LOS ANGELES, CA –– A local art organization, L.A. Art Machine, and three prominent California artists, Mear One, Chor Boogie, and Shark Toof, brought suit today in federal court against Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live, owned by AEG, for destroying $100,000 of their artwork.  The artwork had been loaned to AEG and the Ritz-Carlton Residences for a high-end promotional event at the luxury condos located at L.A. Live, but instead of being returned to the artists, the artwork was dismantled and discarded, according to Daniel Y. Zohar of Zohar Law Firm, P.C. in Los Angeles, who is representing the artists and the L.A. Art Machine.

(Photo by Khoi Nguyen/

“What AEG did was in violation not only of my clients’ economic rights, but a violation of their moral rights as defined by federal and state law,” explained Mr. Zohar.  The Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) and the California Art Preservation Act (CAPA) protect the rights of artists and forbid the desecration, alteration or destruction of works of art.

“These renowned artists had agreed to show their artwork at the Ritz-Carlton Residences to help AEG attract affluent potential clientele to their vacant, multi-million dollar condos.  Yet in return, their valuable art was coldly destroyed,” Mr. Zohar added.


Should Graffiti Removal Be a Priority for Portland?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Endless Canvas’s Special Delivery art show at the Railyard Gallery was in the Portland Mercury again today…
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“There goes the neighborhood: An outdoor “street art mural” in the controversial Railyard show.” – Sarah Mirk, Portland Mercury
Bella Ciao Graffiti Piece.


Here is what they wrote…

“I posted last week about a SE Portland warehouse gallery the Railyard that was evicted over concerns about a street art show attracting “prolific taggers” from California. Since then, KATU picked up the storyfor their Friday newscast and both over there and here on the blog, people have been discussing Portland’s approach to graffiti.

The city has been stepping up graffiti abatement in recent years, in part due to Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who runs the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and spends her free time removing graffiti while she waits for the MAX. But a few years before Fritz’s election, city council passed a law requiring stores to get ID for spray paint purchases and record every spray paint sale in massive logbooks. This year, the city spent $158,000 to created a new graffiti abatement position in the Portland police bureau (doubling the size of the police’s graffiti abatement team) and a graffiti removal volunteer coordinator job. The current city budget put $409,000 in one-time funds into graffiti removal, part of which pays for a summer youth crew to paint over graffiti around the city. At the time of the crackdown on the Railyard, the neighborhood around the gallery was under police watch as a graffiti “hot spot.”

Is all this investment worth it?

I had an interesting conversation this morning with PSU Professor Hunter Shobe, a geographer who studies street art. Graffiti enforcement is an issue that’s becoming more difficult in cities across the country. Some graffiti are tags connected to gang activity, some are political statements, and some art pretty pictures. But Portland’s approach to graffiti is similar to essentially every city in the United States: a zero tolerance policy. This is in part due to the broken windows theory that graffiti in any form creates an area that’s more ripe for other kinds of vandalism. Paid and volunteer graffiti abatement teams aim to paint over all graffiti in 24 hours, whether it’s shitty spray painted tags on murals or legitimately interesting art.

Portland’s crime mapping database doesn’t separate out “graffiti” from other vandalism crimes, but inner Southeast Portland (where the Railyard is located) has had 556 complaints of vandalism this year, the most of anywhere in the city.

Many cities in Europe (like Berlin) are more laid back about street art. The Legal Walls website for graffiti writers, for example, lists only 75 graffiti legal walls in the United States, but 816 around Europe. In the US, while graffiti is finding appreciation in the mainstream (you don’t get any more mainstream than street artist Shepard Fairey creating the iconic image of a presidential campaign) but it remains a crime.

“On the one hand there seems to be increased attention on trying to crack down on this, but you see increased acceptance of street art within the art world and more gallery shows,” says Shobe.

The controversy over whether the street art show at Railyard contributed to illegal graffiti in the citywide is similar to issues around the the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art recent high-profile street art show, which attracted 201,000 museum-goers but also led to an uptick in graffiti in the area, according to LA police. So there’s this interesting conflict: Inside a gallery, graffiti can be a modern art form worth the $10 ticket price. Outside, it’s vandalism and a blight on neighborhoods.”

Original source…
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Photos from the show…
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Graffiti Police Crack Down on Gallery for Hosting Street Art Show

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Article originally posted by the Portland Mercury Newspaper…
on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Special Delivery Art Show.

Fledgling Portland art gallery The Railyard planned a massive event for their July 4th show “Special Delivery.” Railyard curator Todd Durham invited over two dozen Bay Area artists to create “street art inspired” pieces for their warehouse gallery. But the show attracted some surprise guests: The Portland police.”Our officers became aware that this warehouse and those that rented it hosted prolific taggers from California to come to Portland. They tagged inside and outside the warehouse and our officers believed tagged at other locations around the City,” writes Portland police spokesman Lt. Robert King. The Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the police target graffiti because they believe it contributes to other, more serious, crimes in areas that look uncared for.

This week, the gallery and four other businesses that share its space in the old Hair of the Dog brewery on SE 23rd Avenue and Holgate were evicted over the graffiti issues. Durham says his landlord, the city’s two graffiti abatement officers, and a locksmith showed up Tuesday morning and told them their lease was moot.

While the police say the gallery’s artists are responsible for illegal graffiti in the neighborhood, the gallery owners say their intention was to reduce graffiti and that they were targeted simply for hosting a show devoted to street art.

They specifically kicked us out because they didn’t like our art,” says Durham. “There’s been graffiti on this building for 10 years. The cops think we’re trying to promote graffiti and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do.”

For Special Delivery, 25 artists created graffiti-style murals on panels, canvasses, and directly on the walls inside and outside of The Railyard building. Photos of the show are here and the July 4th opening attracted several hundred people. Durham and other people involved in the gallery say the show was supposed to be a kickoff for their initiative to turn the industrial area into a “mural district” where the city and business owners would sign off on letting people do street art murals on the old warehouses and factories.

But the event instead created a tense relationship with the police.

Serre Murphy runs Samo Lives Gallery on SE 39th and Gladstone and was hosting a show by one of the Special Delivery artists, Chris Moon, also on July 4th. Murphy says graffiti officer Anthony Zanetti showed up to the opening.

“He started yelling at me, telling me that I was responsible for graffiti around the Railyard. He said, ‘You know when you walk into a bar and you walk out and get a DUI? It’s the bar’s responsibility,'” says Murphy. The side of Murphy’s gallery is covered in a mural, which he admits he didn’t follow the proper city process to get approved because he wanted to change the image every few months. Murphy says Officer Zanetti said he would be fined $500 for that mural.

“We haven’t done any tagging. All we’ve done is beautiful artwork. Some people may not like it, but it’s beautiful artwork,” says Murphy, who is likely now planning to paint over the mural to stay out of trouble with the police.

After stopping by Samo Lives Gallery, Officer Zanetti proceeded to the Railyard and, with reportedly a half dozen other officers, began pulling over cars leaving the gallery and then phoned the gallery’s landlord.

The area around The Railyard is a rough industrial part of town, next to the train tracks. There is certainly plenty of graffiti in the area. But The Railyard and police disagree on whether new graffiti is the gallery’s fault.

Neighbor and furniture builder Brian Gualtieri says there has been graffiti on the former brewery for years. “I’ve been in the space eight years, we have sometimes gone up on the roof and scraped stuff off,” says Gualtieri. “The last time the landlord got graffiti removed was five years ago.”

Over the past month, the landlord and Durham have emailed back and forth about the paintings on the Railyard walls, but Durham thought they were in agreement until the officers and landlord arrived with an eviction notice.

The police can not discuss details over the number of officers on the scene or whether there have been any arrests of artists with a connection to the gallery because it’s an ongoing investigation, says Lt. King.

For now, Durham and friends are scrambling to move their gallery, two screenprinting studios, a construction company HQ, and a recording studio out of the building in a matter of days.

BREAKING NEWS: Art is Now a Crime

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Article written by: “Yourself” – August 2011

If you ask a person on the street  “Is there a difference between advertising, murals and graffiti?” they would probably say “Yes, of coarse”, considering they each have their own definition. However, those in positions of power in the cities of Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles have made conflicting claims as to the significance of these definitions. Billboard companies have accused murals as being advertisements, and City offices claim that local murals are illegal graffiti. Meanwhile, graffiti and mural artists, who struggle to legally provide beauty and insight for their community, are stuck in between a web of legal code. The future of public expression in Portland and LA, and even America as a whole, is under compromise. Here are the signs of the probable ban on your right to public art.

As you may already know, corporations have the same constitutional rights as you, an actual human being, although a corporation cannot be held responsible and imprisoned like you would be. In 1997 AK Media, an advertising company, sued the city of Portland. AK media claimed that Portland’s codes that restricted advertising intruded upon their first amendment, freedom of expression. They also accused the city of favoring mural art, and claimed this art was also a form of advertising. The county court ruled that Portland’s sign code was unconstitutional, in favor of AK Media. In order for the city to avoid losing public money to a corporation, they were forced to apply the city sign codes to murals. After this ruling, in order to legally paint a mural, you would need a $1400 permit just like advertisers. AK Media was eventually bought out by Clear Channel, who picked up AK Media’s case and sued the city again in 2006. A  group called the Portland Mural Defense attended the trial  to represent Portland artists and support a more accessible mural policy.  After this trial the city of Portland drafted a mural permitting process that allowed murals on commercial buildings, given that they pay a fee, and that the design remain on the building for at least 5 years. Because of this ruling, Portland has struggled since to create new murals that reflect it’s growing creative population, with many artists misinformed and afraid to even attempt at painting a public mural. To make things worse graffiti artists are constantly held back for participating in mural painting, when they are simply painting walls with permission.


In June of this year, a local Portland newspaper featured a front page article on Portland’s supposed graffiti “dilemma”. The story begins with a mural that was recently defaced with amateur graffiti, and introduces a newly hired graffiti investigator, making two officers solely dedicated to graffiti in this small city.The paper informs Portland’s citizens that this officer’s position, as well as a paid volunteer coordinator, costs “$158,600 in city funds”.The paper used the defaced mural as the “tear-jerker” of the story. This vandalization of a public art piece is one of the main examples in the article used to justify the graffiti abatement program’s rising expenses.


Ironically, the graffiti abatement program itself has attempted to stop other murals in Portland. At the same time that the previous article was published, two separate buildings received a graffiti abatement notice. This notice informed the owners that their building was “vandalized” with graffiti and that the nuisance must be painted over within 10 days of the notice. Otherwise, the city will contract a third party to paint over it and bill the owners. The problem with this notice, however, was that the walls were not “vandalized” at all. Both buildings were painted by multiple mural artists, with permission, using various media including spray paint (a common mural medium). One building was a grassroots community creative space hoping to beautify and represent the neighborhood with their exterior walls. The other was a newly opened gallery, named Samo Lives, hoping to do the same while showcasing artists they featured inside. The graffiti abatement program had “accidentally” confused two large scale multi-color neighborhood mural projects, as “graffiti”. How could they have made such an obvious mistake?


Jules Muck Graffit Mural. (Above – Permission murals by Jules Muck declared as illegal graffiti.)


Apparently, the graffiti abatement notices run on citizen complaints, and someone had complained that the murals were “graffiti”. However, the residents in both buildings claim each neighborhood was expressive of their appreciation for the new art.  Additionally, local mural artists report stories about the graffiti abatement coordinator (the person who delivers the abatement notices), who supposedly calls in every new mural that uses spray paint while driving around town, to check if they have a registered mural permit. Although neither of the noticed murals obtained a permit, the mural permit coding is not enforced by the graffiti abatement program, which is a completely separate department. The mural code never even mentions the word “graffiti” or “vandalism” at all. Puzzling, is the fact that the grassroots community space reports that the mural project started after they had already painted over unsolicited tagging multiple times, which they never received an abatement notice for. The tagging issue for this building was virtually solved by the application of mural art, and the city of Portland even lists public art as a graffiti prevention measure. Portland’s graffiti abatement program is negligent of the fact that permission graffiti murals protect walls from actual graffiti tagging which is what the program is funded to eradicate, not public art.


In Portland, not only are authorized graffiti murals under attack by a city funded program, but even “graffiti art”, in the form of paintings inside art galleries. Endless Canvas, a group of photographers that document and publish mural and street art in the Bay Area, visited Portland in July to curate a group art show. The event was originally planned as a mural painting event to beautify a neglected industrial area, with additional work inside an art event space. However, after the news of the other neighborhood murals under legal scrutiny, the event space decided to have all of the murals painted inside. On the same night of the opening for the mural show, the Samo Lives gallery, mentioned earlier, had a separate art show in the same area and was visited by the newest graffiti officer. This officer apparently harassed and intimidated the gallery owner, accusing them of bringing in graffiti vandals into town and also reminded them of the fees that would occur from their own mural that they did not paint over. The officer also told the gallery owner that they would be responsible for any new graffiti in the area, accusing the owner of supporting local “vandalism”. Around the same time, an unmarked police car was stationed on the perimeter of the Endless Canvas show, supposedly profiling and pulling aside anyone going in the direction of the show. The police talked to the event organizers as well, informing them that their show would be shut down, although the police never informed them what they were actually doing wrong. Are these the actions what Portland city officials agreed to allow the extra $158,600 in city funds for? Would this happen again to anyone else expressing themselves in an otherwise legal manner?


Special Delivery art show Portland OR. ( “Special Delivery” indoor mural exhibit curated by Endless Canvas )


Unfortunately, the city of Los Angeles has many reported instances with big advertisers and graffiti abatement that are similar to those in Portland, only on a larger scale.  Considering that one of the affected Portland mural walls was actually a private residential property, one would anticipate city officials restricting how we decorate own homes. This is essentially what officials of LA did to Barbara Black, a retired LA homeowner. Barbara decided to contact the local high school to have her fence painted by art students, who then painted abstract graffiti art to her delight. Without even receiving a first warning, Barbara was quickly given a violation notice from the city for $360, claiming that the mural was an “illegal sign”, because of the use of lettering in the mural. Barbara then raised money and paid the fee, but afterwards inspectors decided that the artwork was now an “illegal mural” and the fee for the violation would be close to $2,000. Barbara, who is retired, could not pay this last fee and was forced to destroy the mural by painting over it. All the while, in the same neighborhood as Barbara, are two “more traditional” murals on her neighbor’s property, who have not received any notices. To make Barbara’s story even more bitter is the fact that, as of 2010, LA is reported to have 4,000 illegal billboards that are without proper city permits, and will most likely go unchecked by the city.  That said because  some LA politicians are being funded by advertisers like Clear Channel and that the city is also apparently intimidated by the Portland vs. Clear Channel case. Like Portland, LA has attempted many times to reduce it’s own epidemic of billboards and super-graphics, but after placing these bans the city was sued by Clear Channel and other advertising companies at least 4 times since 2001.


These legal cases with advertisers have apparently led to LA placing a hold on the legality of any new murals. LA was once considered “The Mural Capitol of the World”, but today is losing recent and historical murals due to a combination of misdirected graffiti abatement and amateur graffiti taggers, who lack the mentorship of older generations for “graffiti ethics” (not tagging schools, houses, murals). This city’s deteriorating mural community could be restored very quickly by the city’s world-famous graffiti artists, who have already contributed significantly to LA’s mural community. Sadly, LA’s vibrant and historical graffiti culture is both praised and damned by those in power. The fine art market in LA has increasingly acknowledged graffiti practitioners as “artists”, with multiple galleries selling graffiti art and a recent graffiti art show at the LA MOCA, the largest graffiti art exhibit at a museum of it’s kind. But while the “authorities” of art aesthetic puts up graffiti art for sale inside galleries, the authorities of law spend copious amounts of money destroying their work in the public. In 2009, the US Army Corps spent $837,000 of federal money to paint over the graffiti on the LA River banks. Most notably is Saber’s “LA River Piece”, which was recognized in LA’s Natural History Museum and many graffiti artists would argue that the painting is a milestone in the history of contemporary art. Interestingly, this is the first time that the federal government has been this involved with graffiti abatement. Could the LA river paintings be that intimidating to the American political system? Could the graffiti paintings on the LA river, or any wall featuring “illegal art”, signify a marginalized community with no other means of public representation?

Sabers LA River Piece. (Saber’s famous LA River Piece. 1997-2009)

For many graffiti artists and muralists, their intention is to represent themselves as individuals, or represent a community that they are a part of. These communities, however,  are unable to be represented in the same public space they occupy because corporations have enabled restrictions against their freedom of speech, while those same corporations dominate the visual and mental landscape.  These communities also have a more limited resource of local mural artists, because of the fact that it is a complicated endeavor for a beginner to paint a legal mural, and also because the local graffiti abatement programs will not recognize those who paint graffiti art as “artists”. However, the most efficient way for the cities like Portland and LA to restore their mural culture is to utilize a group of artists who are experienced at painting large scale, quickly, with common materials, and would do it all for free. These requirements would all be supplied by a seasoned graffiti artist. Many other cities have recognized the individual’s historical urge to paint cave-walls, by allowing un-permitted  murals, and provide unrestricted “free-walls” for the youth, who would otherwise have little exposure to visual art.


Why are American cities like Portland and LA spending so much time and money on graffiti abatement while chronically cutting funding for education of the arts? Why are these cities also being defaced with an accelerating rate of often illegal advertisements, after each city had attempted to ban such proliferation? All the while individuals are condemned for expressing themselves freely in public, whether it is indeed illegal graffiti, or simply an authorized mural. These issues of advertising, murals and graffiti are all interrelated, in that they address how public space is used, and who has control over them. Considering the surprising consequences of cities expressing themselves and speaking out against big advertising, like Portland and Los Angeles, any city could also be at risk of losing their constitutional rights to benefit the interests of corporations. With these limitations on the accessibility of public art, the individual has fewer options for public expression, and is more likely to participate in illegal graffiti. These issues happening in Portland and LA foreshadow the demise of our constitutional freedom of expression, that is, if we do not recognize the inequalities taking place around us.


Related Links:
Mobile Mural Lab in LA –