Saturday, April 30, 2011

Will Graffiti Artist Leave His Mark at Riker's?

Basquiat is to art as Sammy Sosa to baseball. Both knew well the meaning of poverty. Each managed to find and follow a passion that led them to the top of their respective fields. Each became worth millions to their fans. Each became embroiled in controversy. And, each has inspired others to follow their paths out of poverty to a better life. In Basquiat's case, that path was the art of graffiti.

So it is that Angel Ortiz found a measure of success following the same path. His street art is on display as part of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in L.A. His street name is LA II with his tag line Laroc.

According to Reuters. Ortiz was unfortunately nailed for practicing his street art in New York where such things are both appreciated and frowned upon. Appreciated by fans and frowned upon by police. He was out walking his dog with a spray can in hand, not your typical dog walking artist, but hey, this is New York. There are stranger sights on those streets.

It was Ortiz's third arrest, and this time he was put behind the bars of Riker's Island, the famous 413 acre complex that sits in the East River between Queens and the Bronx.

What's interesting to me is that Ortiz has achieved a measure of success now as an artist, his paintings selling for thousands of dollars. Is making graffiti some form of addiction then? Is there neurological thrill involved with crossing the line and doing illegal art?

According to the Reuters story he told the police that he knew "sooner or later I was going to get grabbed." The bummer is that he missed his art opening in L.A. On the positive side, maybe he will leave some artwork behind in the prison. I personally think the authorities would be just to bring him as much paint as he wants. It's got to be a dreary world in there, although there is a Salvador Dali drawing hanging there. Dali was once given an opportunity to speak to the prisoners but being unable to make it sent the drawing instead. Might even be worth going to Riker's for. Nah. I don't think so.

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