The vandalism of a Shepard Fairey mural in Echo Park leaves its owner wondering why

Photographer Gary Leonard spent a recent afternoon taking photos of a Shepard Fairey mural being installed on the side of an Echo Park storefront he owns. The Echo Park resident came back early the next day to photograph the same mural in the morning light only to find the nearly 15-foot-high collage near the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Duane Street streaked with coats of blue paint. Leonard came back later to cover up the mural with sheets of corrugated metal to protect it from further damage. “This is extreme, and you might want to say, it’s a violent act toward art. That being the case, I just covered it up.”

Leonard took the vandalism, which occurred shortly before Memorial Day weekend, personally not only because it took place on his property but because the artwork represented a collaboration with Fairey, whose own studio is located in Echo Park. The mural featured a towering image of the legendary punk rock singer Darby Crash based on a photo that Leonard had taken in 1980. When Fairey completed a print based on that image, Leonard told him: “You can put this on my wall.”

It’s still not clear who vandalized the mural on the side of building occupied by Echo Park Cycles. Some of the comments on The Eastsider’s original post on the attack said it was motivated in part because the Fairey mural covered up the work of other artists that was in progress. A comment by a person named Susan said:

“The site was already prepped, the drawing (to be filled in with color) was there and represented many, many, many hours of work preparing it. You would have to be a complete imbecile to paint over that and not realize that you were destroying someone’s project.”

After the Fairey mural was installed, the bike shop posted signs that read “We did not commission this artwork … We apologize to the community.” One store employee said the shop put up the signs after it received complaints about the Fairey mural. The employee would not comment further.

Leonard said that Fairey, best known for his Obama poster, has agreed to repair the mural. But don’t expect the metal sheets to come down soon. Leonard, who is busy preparing for a vintage billboard show at his downtown gallery, said he will leave the artwork covered “until things cool down,” saying he might wait until he moves into the Echo Park store front sometime in the future.

“I’m not anxious to foist my art on to the bike shop or on to the neighborhood,” he said. “At some point I will lift [the metal sheets] up and I will have Shepard Fairey repair it.”

Related Link:
* More trouble at an Echo Park corner. The Eastsider

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