By Edwin Folven, 8/30/2012
Some consider artwork in alley to be offensive
A mural depicting male and female sex organs painted last weekend in an alley behind the 7900 block of 3rd Street has been deemed offensive by some nearby residents, prompting calls for it to be removed.
The mural was painted by artist Annie Preece behind The Proper Barbershop. Preece, who described herself as a local street artist, said she painted the mural on a shed behind the shop as a gift to her friends, Vinnie Morey and Trent Magnano, the owners of the barbershop. She added that the artwork, titled “A Proper Mural”, does not have a particular message, other than the symbols are supposed to represent the different people who work at the barbershop. Both Magnano and Morey said the mural is art, that it is open to interpretation, and it should spark emotions in viewers, whether positive or negative. Others in the neighborhood believe it is offensive, and should not be allowed.
“It’s an incredibly profane mural,” nearby resident Joel Rothman said. “It takes a lot to shock me, and this is beyond the boundary of any standard of decency I’ve heard of.”
Morey said he has had different artists paint murals on the shed every four or five months during the past three years that he has owned the shop, and he had not received complaints about any of the previous artworks. The mural was completed Tuesday, and Morey added that it was news to him that anyone was offended.
“Annie is a friend of mine, a friend of the shop. She is one of the hottest artists in L.A. right now, and we wanted to give her the opportunity to show her art,” Morey added. “We told her to make it funny and make it about us. Make it something amazing and horrific at the same time.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District, who represents the area, said he finds the mural to be offensive.
“I think it is unnecessarily obscene, and it’s not something young kids in the neighborhood need to see,” Koretz said. “My office has contacted Building and Safety, and have been in touch with the owners, and hopefully we don’t have to take any enforcement action.”
Koretz’s deputy, Paul Michael Neuman, confirmed the complaints had been forwarded to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and an inspector was scheduled to go to the site before the end of the week to determine if it is illegal. The city has limited jurisdiction over murals painted on private property, but can require that they be covered up if they can be seen from public spaces, such as an alley. The city handles them on a case-by-case basis, according to Neuman.
“There is a distinction between an alley and private property,” Neuman said. “With these things, Building and Safety can say it is illegal, and then it can either be adjudicated, which takes some time, or they can comply.”
Neuman said Morey indicated he would have the mural painted over within the next couple of days. When interviewed at the barbershop on Tuesday, Morey echoed that sentiment.
“If it’s going to be a problem, we’ll paint over it,” he said. “It sucks though. She spent a lot of time on it.”