WAKO from Breed St. doesn’t realize what he did when he defaced the mural Ernesto has been working so hard to restore. At the risk of getting jumped, FUCK HIM. I’m on my way to school this morning and I see that stupid green paint on the mural, that isn’t even done yet and it’s frustrating to say the least. It’s like a never ending cycle that keeps going all because some idiot banger doesn’t have respect for murals that are older than him. At the same time since ELAC is under construction one mural already got trashed, the olympics mural that could be seen driving by Cesar Chavez Ave. Now there’s talk going around that since our library is going to get remodeled, the mural from the East Los Streetscapers is in danger of getting destroyed. I’ll be damn if I’ll let that happen. Stay tuned for updates.

18 thoughts on “Disrespect

  1. This is my least favorite thing ever. I just don’t get it. I’ll never understand the desire to step all over something that is beautiful.

  2. This is what I don’t get about the arguments that defend graffiti. Why is it acceptable for “self-expression” to deface someone else’s work? And if that’s not acceptable, why is it okay on some other background?

    That mural is gorgeous.

  3. It’s a sensitive subject that for me touches on a lot of nerves. I personally love graffiti, but when it’s done right I.E. open spaces, canvases and not on murals or any other place that is just blatant vandalism. It’s all skewed because kids trying to get up are the ones fucking it up for the other well established artist trying to come up in the art world. It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t in the loop, so to speak. BUT in this particular case, this isn’t some kid trying to get up, this is some random STUPID banger writing on something he should be protecting because it’s part of the hood. Fucking idiots.

  4. I’ve seen this so many times, in so many places.
    My explanation is that there are many little punks who fancy themselves the “neighborhood artists”. Unfortunately for many of them, they lack the talent, the background, and the discipline to do the hard work required to be truly a good artist that people can truly respect. (They can’t blame anyone for that either, it takes pennies to get a pencil & paper and work hard until you’re good + it takes even MORE balls to admit when you suck)) My opinion is that much of this graffiti barely qualifies as one step above someone who smears poo on the walls. They desire to be recognized and respected somehow as artists but, I’m sorry, writing your name illegibly over & over ranks very very low as far as artistic expression goes (by any standards-some is admittedly better than others). So naturally, these “low-on-the street art-chain” punks feel quite threatened and shown up when someone with any real talent goes up in their hood. A stupid & primitive instinct of territoriality & jealousy kicks in, and since they’re incapable of responding in a civilized manner (like going back to the drawing board & practicing their chops to be as good) they simply smear their poo on the offending piece. It’s like they’re saying: “There! That will put me up on that same wall, no one will admire this mural NOW without also acknowledging ME!!” Now, If this is not the work of a “local” tagger, then it might be a “traveling” tagger passing through with a “Don’t give a Shit” attitude since he/she doesn’t live here anyway, and leaving a little token of his/her “Kilroy was here”.

    Every one of these type of “tags'” is a slap in the face to every Barrio kid who’s busting his butt learning about art and buying blank canvases.

  5. That fucking blows.

    I’ve seen this over & over and I always want to tape a sign up that says “Maybe you don’t understand what you’re doing. Here’s why it’s disrespectful to the artist: [explanation here].” But I doubt anyone who does this to begin with would listen to reason.

  6. As an old school muralist and someone who runs a mentoring org that works with teens on probation/failing in school/involved in gangs, drugs, and tagging i’m surprised by some of the reactions (am i reading La Eastide or La curbed?). Eastside Quiz: What is the best way to work with these young toys who put their chicken scratch tagging all over the place? a)probation/jail time b) make em get dressed in orange and pick up trash/paint over other chicken scratch or c) invest directly in these youngsters with mentoring time and resources (paint, canvas, field trips). We have to remember that these young people are not receiving any art training or enrichment, except from their friends and what they are learning on the streets. How many muralists are actually working with young people and incorporating them into the creation of the murals (and not just for show, and not 10 years ago?) And if the muralists are not actively working with the teens, why would you expect them to “respect” the murals? Why do these toys tag in the first place? They are trying to get fame, get to be known like their “heroes” (who are usually not the Chicano artists/muralists because they don’t have exposure to those people). And, to their toy logic, they are getting more fame by putting up their chicken scratch on a mural where it will certainly get noticed as opposed to putting it on a blank wall. So we know “why youth tag” and we know that the only way to work with these youngsters is by engaging them in meaningful mentoring/art programs where they are allowed to practice their style of art and in addition are exposed to working on “old school” murals. We also need to promote a new style of murals, where the youngsters can come in and do their thing and at the same time learn brush techniques. We also need to understand that many taggers can’t draw yet. Also, lets not use the fox news BS “tag banger” moniker for these youngsters.

  7. In this fame-driven culture, those dregs that “write” over murals such as these are simply wanting that “fame” too. As long as our soceity follows its present trajrctory _this_ will occur. Although I do love murals, I find it difficult to denegrate any sort of self-expression. That scribble may be more indicative of EVERYTHING than any mural.

    Street or “degenerate” art is always hated then recuperated by consumer, private-propertied society.

    Maybe really for this guy this mural means nothing, so what comes next.

  8. I was kinda thinking along the same lines as the comments above. The tagger has no relation to the mural or the history of his community. If he did, he might have more respect or perhaps he’d still do it as a critique of art. The respect for art is not an innate tendency.
    His tag says more about the work that needs to be done in the community to make youth feel engaged and not have to “act up” to feel noticed and recognized.

  9. @El Random Hero, I do think that there is room for all forms of expression. And while I don’t know as much about graffiti as many, I’m open to learning more–certainly I recognize some of the motivations behind it.

    But while there is room for all forms of expression, not all people doing the expressing are good at it. There are bad novelists and poets and moviemakers, for example. But they’re carving out their own space and its easy to avoid what doesn’t resonate. Graffiti uses shared space and is impossible to avoid. That’s got power for some, but it’s an imposition for others.

    The question, therefore, is how to give power to those who need it and don’t have it.

  10. There is that new mural at Griffin and 34th on a small wall by the school. That wall constantly got tagged and hopefully the kids will respect the new mural. So far so good, but you know it is only a matter of time…

  11. My spam word was tag it haha 😉 Manny I comepletely agree with your approch and solution on how to stop and prevent furthur vandalism like the one in this picture. Knowledge is a much more powerful tool than just sending kids to county and what not. My only problem is that not all of these kids can be helped or want to be helped. There is a generational divide present here between the old school and kids commg up today. I love it when I hear that artist like you are taking up that challenge and doing what they can helping the next gen come. I myself try to do the same and hope to do it as a teacher in the future because I could have been one of those mocosos who’s out there just starting shit, but I got lucky and I’m turning my efforts in helping the next gen come up while understanding our past.

  12. According to the adolescent “writers” I work with on a daily basis, the primary reason for tagging on an established piece is because your name will stay up longer than on a monotone wall that can easily be repainted over. Muralists,often busy with other work, cannot constantly repaint their original pieces in order to repair the damage and the tag stays put for a longer time. Witness the large scale murals that were put up for the 1984 Olympics and went unscathed under a sort of “con safos” for more than a decade. Kids that tagged barren grey sound walls often had their names painted over by a CalTrans crew in less than a week. However, if you bombed a mural, your mark was bound to stay up for much longer until another crew managed to cover you up. This is why CalTrans painted over most of the murals that decorated the Downtown Slot, save for the incredibly ugly and amateurish piece put up for the LAPD.

    The only muralist who consistently repairs the damage done to his piece is the guy who put up a tribute to Tony Curtis on the Hollywood Freeway. However, in constantly repainting the piece the artist was not able to replicate the pointilist detail present in the original.

  13. As a muralist creating public art there are lots of battles that have to be fought: battling the city and getting approval to do a mural; battling public opinion and “art critics”; the weather; and of course the new generation that is completely disconnected from muralists and artists. I feel I have a responsibility as a muralist to do outreach and engage as many youth to participate in the process of doing a legal public mural. I teach them that it’s just as exciting to do a legal wall as it is to do an illegal wall. The young taggers of today aren’t doing anything new, they are just repeating the same old rituals and cycles. I regularly repair my murals and end up mentoring many youth who tagged my murals. The youngsters learn I’m not the bad guy; i’m just an older homie showing them the movidas on how to do their own public art. Most of these youth do want their own legal wall. I repair my murals with no concern for money whereas many muralist demand huge sums of $$. It only takes me about one day. Why does the city of LA pay millions!!! each year to paint over graffiti? Why doesn’t some of that money go to art program? We know our kids are starving for it. I remember when LA was the mural capital of world; now the city wants to whitewash them as a way to stop and prevent graffiti. Join us at our next youth graff art show on March 14, 2009!

  14. This is a shame. Not all gangsters hit the murals. I’ve seen some gangs putting their name up in small stick-on letters so it looks “official”.

    BTW – ERH pointed out that this guy writing on the wall is probably from the Breed St. gang, not a tagger.

    As far as taggers go, I’ll paraphrase my father (who was pretty conservative). Some of them have really nice writing, the only problem is where they write it.

    He used to paint show cards back when people painted things by hand, not typed them up on a computer… so that was really a compliment.

    I have an idea. What taggers could do is try to get work painting signs for shops. Store owners don’t often have good lettering skills. They have to re-price things all the time, and need the signs quickly. It’s a living. Maybe some will break out and carry on with traditional sign-painting, a quickly dying art form.

    I’m totally serious about this. I dislike those vinyl sticker signs that look like they were done in Microsoft Word. The only time they’re cool is when they’re peeling. They were ugly when they were new, and ugly when they peeled.

    I was unconsciously upset during the 80s and 90s as the hand painted signs and artwork on was lost to “progress” and the plastic signs with scrunched up letters. Every year, another sign would be lost. At first, it wasn’t a big deal, but eventually, I started to miss the artwork.

    Nowadays, there’s too little commercial artwork. There’s too many blank walls, and too much graffiti. Why can’t these taggers be using their skills to enhance the city?

    Anyways, that’s my 2c.

  15. Manny, what is the name of your organization, or where are some of your works. I myself run a organization that paints community based murals (meaning painting with the actual community) and we work with cholos, tagers, viejitas and mocosos; I had no idea in the 7 years Ive done this that anyone else does it as well and that is great.


    I have over 5 dozen murals untagged, running in all of the most graffiti filled parts of LA. Getting the locals who are most apt to pick up a can and deface your piece is a good piece of graff abatement, by stimulating ownership and public action by locals. The other half is checking your ego and realizing that some dumbshit will eventually hit the wall, and being prepared for such a situation. Most of the mural vandalism taking place is, as noted, becuase tags on murals stay up longer than a blank wall the city can cover in that shitty beige paint. Unfortunately, many famous artists wont fix their murals for anything less than $5k, so the tags stay up. Which is the 2nd part of keeping a mural free of graffiti, checking your pieces (when I was a writer I did the same) and having the supplies ready to erase a tag. I carry all my colors in plastic pint jars that I place in a milk crate and carry in my trunk. Since I ruin all my nice clothes, my wife forces me to carry a spare set of paint clothes as well. I drive around and spot check my murals, and fix tags immediately.

    I used to ask merchants or owners to call me, but that follow thru never happens. I also usually get a local cholo/neighborhood to take ownership of the mural (I had a guy from F13 shooT at taggers once), but some youngster or local fool is bound to come around and tag the wall. I started painting in the LA river as a kid, embraced graf and hiphop as an alternative to the thuglife mindset, and personally can attest to the positive movement graffiti can make in a person’s life, graffiti got me into urban planning, which I now make money off of and have a degree in.

    That graff-artist connection has been generally lost in this subculture, and a lot of it is directly related to anti-graffiti programs and the criminalization of urban minority youth. Look at who got art careers off of graffiti: back in the 70s/80s it was minority kids from NYC hedging their skills and “realness” to rich whites, nowadays its rich white kids like shepard fairey (giant), twist, saber and all the MSK whiteboys getting fame while equally talented minorities still live in the hood and go mobbing. Rather than focus on art programs, the “lock em up” style of combatting graffiti took charge and wreaked havoc on urban kids since the early 90s.

    I rememebr this time, guys who were stonerish payasos became hardened criminals because they caught 6 month stints for tagging. Before the pretagbanging era (and those blatchford specials on fox, or the chaka/nacho vid on ABC) gang and non-gang graf were seperate entities existing in hood geography. Some writers banged, but that was a seperate thing, and it was a fairly informal rule that the graf scene was nuetral territory. Radiotron ruled all, K4P ran southcentral and K2S/213 was around Belmont and Eastlos.

    Then the media got ahold of the fact that some morons were blending graf into the party crew scene (which at the time was morphing into gangsterish activities) with violent outcomes, blew it up and got all the hueros scared, and all the “tough on graffiti” programs came about. The bastion for barrio kids to get away from gangs but still hold some social capital melted into wannabe gangs, social institutions covered everything with beige buff, and the violence of the mid 90s permeated everything.

    When they began buffing everything the incentive to produce nice pieces diminished, as they even buffed the yards and alleys where it thrived into quality art. If your shit is gonna get covered in a 2 days, are you gonna use 4 cans and an hour to produce quality work in one spot or are you gonna use one can and hit 25 spots with tags at 20 seconds a spot? Writers embraced economy of scale, and it had horrible consequences on our walls and the graffiti scene. That was almost 20 years ago (chaka was my neighbor, I remember danny getting raided) so time and generations of new writers have ensured the degredation of graffiti from a style/skill/piece driven social subculture into a more macho vandalism driven egotistical jerkoff fest (it was this before, but not as ramapant and less art-based) where getting up was the pinnacle. During this time of graff degredation, some notables kept up the style traditions, but the dozens/hundreds of thousands of hood kids mostly turned to the outright vandalism driven scene filled with guns and no style. In the mid 90s when I was into graff the most, we did a lot of legal liquor store walls; but local residents too ignorant to understand these compositions as art because we used spraycans and werent rich white kids. The city of LA had a prgram to restore and create murals in CD14, but some jerkoff TA bullied the program into erasing any legal graffiti piece murals in Boyle Heights. His name is Armando Herman, and he is the reason why most legal graff pieces in Boyle Heights have been buffed.

    Because the whole “buff everything and arrest them all” process has done nothing (the city spends more on graffiti buffing now than ever), our organization thinks that maybe doing the opposite might help. The eradication of permanent graffiti spaces where kids can take time and express themselves has been horrible for writers genuinely into the skill and art of the medium, we work to create those spaces. We worked with the County to make the Atlantic yards a formal graffiti sanctuary, as well as a few other places I would not like to burn.

    The problem is, that most writers are assholes with serious self esteem issues and chips on their shoulders. There is no other reason why someone would risk their life or freedom so that others could see their name up, the need for attention. Because of this, graffiti is a social phenomenom that caters to deviance and has criminal results that degrades the quality of our communities. So you cannot expect some silver bullet to turn all writers into artists or harvard alums, and you cannot expect all the buff paint and long jail sentences in the world to do the trick either.

    Back to my comments about spaces for graf needing to exist and tagger sbeing mostly assholes:

    I didnt list all the places where we have created graf sanctuaries because writers burn them, as they always have. Some moron will tag nearby stores/homes, someone will get beat down or killed, people will drink smoke and fuck whenever you create a place for graff writers to congregate; its a socially deviant activity that attracts social deviants (and spare me the feel good lecture, I was one of them and can explain it in a touchy feely way but care not to). Right now 2 of our graffiti sanctuaries have been buffed in East La because some dicks doing a legal piece flashed guns at code enforcement officers on seperate occassions. My only wish is I couldve noted who they were by their pieces, so I couldve spread the word about them burning it for everyone else.

    I have also been harassed by younger writers trying to get attention, they are worse than juiced out cholos. When i go into a hood I meet the local gang, get good with tem and ask their permission as well as if their kids or them wanto to paint, and it has always been all good. I have had guns pulled on me, bottles thrown at me, and fools get in my face; but never been injured. cholos do that sometimes if thye dont know you, but now writers do it a lot more. when assholes get in my face i always ask them to help us paint and we’ll put their name up, or the “stop hating” talk that always works.

    Only a few times have fools kept up the trouble. most notably some losers from TV defacing my mural across from roosevelt HS because i called them haters and got in their face one morning after my kindness enacted a threatening response. I cross them out when I see them with bright mural paint, I also make up demeaning names for them (TV=transvestites) and spread the word.

    there’s lots of grey areas on this issue, my dream is to put it into a powerpoint and be able to explain it to policy makers such as Supervisor Molina.

  16. I think the thing is with young people and graffiti is that in general we as adults, artists, writers, etc need to talk to them before they piss us off. You know while yeah I am not happy about a great mural being tagged, I am equally not that happy that they’re not more people like Art getting involved with the kids, before they are “the bad guy.”

    I’m more mad that kids don’t have any options.

    I notice within the black community there is the middle class and the poor and pretty much the only time the middle class acknowledges the poor is when they’ve done something wrong, you know drinking a 40, having “too many” babies, going to jail…etc…

    In my head sometimes I am surprised that some outreach programs are even sort of successful at times, because it always seems to be about “you suck, you suck, you suck, how you fix your life is being more like me…”

    And you know I think that is why programs like Art’s (which needs alot more funding) work, because it’s not coming from this, “You messed up my stuff and you’re making us look bad and I’m going to help you beat an upright citizen.” Yeah on some levels I get all that, but on some levels if I were a kid of certain conditions and you came at me like that or had never even bothered to say boo to me before I tagged your mural, I’d probably be like you can go fu*k yourself and tag something else of yours just to be spiteful.

    I’m not saying it right, I’m just saying from my experience dealing with kids if you catch them doing something good and really tell them how awesome they are they will stop doing the bad stuff, but lots of kids who are taggers and they are poor, the ones not connected with some kind of artistic group of people, that kid. He’s used to being yelled at, people are screaming at them at home, people are sceaming at them at school, people are screaming at them all day, cops are yelling at them to spread them…this negative reinforcement is not going to work with a kid who has been yelled at from birth.

    And if you put your art out in public you need to realize it’s no longer yours, it’s the publics, you the artist can be part of the public and make sure you fix the tags or the wear and tear that comes from the sun, but the public can take it upon itself to do what it wants.

    I bet Ernesto isn’t even upset about this tag. It’s part of the process you know. If people keep putting up murals and people keep tagging them and this has been an ongoing problem for years, how about leaving a space on the mural where people can tag? I mean maybe that’s crazy, but I don’t know some kind exquisite corpse mural art that combines the art of the writer and the art of the muralist…


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