The Counsellor's Corner
Approximately two weeks ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit contending that the rights of a 23 year old muralist had been violated by the Parks and Recreation Commission in that they prohibited him from placing his art at the Venice Beach Graffiti Pit. What exactly is Mr. Taylor's art? His mural shows what is clearly an immigrant family running from a large boar through a city being followed by a television news camera. Mr. Taylor's ACLU attorney contends that the Commission rejected his mural because it opposed the political message being put forth by Mr. Taylor. At a press conference, Commission officials acknowledged their desire to limit controversial political expression in favor of more innocuous, less provocative art. The ACLU lawsuit indicates that the Commission had requested art geared toward the theme "issues of concern to LA youth," however, the president of the Commission is supposed to have commented regarding Mr. Taylor's proposed mural "This is not the story I want to tell." The Commission has decided to place Mr. Taylor's mural, in a less heavily trafficked location. The ACLU's position is that the Commission opened up a public forum, requested art, and now "cannot deny artists the right to exhibit based on the artist's point of view."
Mr. Taylor says he is following in the footsteps of Pablo Picasso who used images of animals to make political statements and that his boar or pig is supposed to symbolize the corruption of big business.
So here we are with Mr. Taylor and the ACLU attempting to obtain an injunction which would permit Mr. Taylor's work to be shown at the Venice Graffiti Pit which brings me to what first struck me when I read this story.
We're not talking about the Getty, the Norton Simon, the Art Institute in Chicago, the Metropolitan in New York; we're talking about an entity known as the Venice Graffiti Pit. With scantily clad individuals of both genders skateboarding and roller blading at breakneck speed throughout the Venice boardwalk, with mimes and volley ball and t-shirt stores and some of the best people watching in the world; why would the Commission want to keep out this mural? Since when is the Venice boardwalk, which has always been one of those places to which you like to take out-of-town visitors if they want to see the funky side of California, concerned about taste? And we're not talking here about some of the NEA funding issues where people defecating on one another is put forth as art. We're talking about one man's view of big business' affect on immigration policies. You have three words here. The first one is Venice, that's the city. The second one is graffiti, which indicates generally unwanted writing, usually on a wall. The third word is pit. Those three words viewed either individually or collectively do not lead me to expect to see Michelangelo's work at the Sistine Chapel, or Leonardo DeVinci's Mona Lisa.
I am with the ACLU on this one. The position taken by the Parks and Recreation Commission just doesn't make sense.
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Charlie Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger. Mr.Unger has obtained his doctorate in psychology and writes a bi-monthly column on legal and psychological issues.
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