After tagging a 1929 Picasso painting at the Menil Collection with spray paint in June, alleged vandal Uriel Landeros disappeared and remained totally silent . . . until this weekend, when the 22-year-old artist published a series of brief YouTube videos in English and Spanish that detail his motivations.
Landeros contacted CultureMap via social media Saturday to announce his new formal explanation, describing the motivations behind a surprise act of vandalism during which he spray painted the stencil of a bullfighter — and the words "conquista la bestia" ("conquer the beast") — on Picasso's cubist work Woman in a Red Armchair.
The video itself offers an apo logy to the Menil as well as a claim that the material he used could be removed with only "a little bit of Windex."
As authorities unsuccessfully combed the city for the suspected tagger in the wake of the stencil attack, rumors circulated through the Houston art scene that he'd fled to Mexico. John Lewis, the assistant Harris County district attorney leading the case against Landeros, tells CultureMap that the U.S. Marshals continue to follow leads to locate the vandal's whereabouts.
The video itself offers an apology to the Menil as well as a claim that the material he used to paint the stencil could be removed with only "a little bit of Windex."
After reciting a letter he wrote after the initial incident, Landeros explains his actions with a mixture of political, social and artistic motivations and a dash of Occupy rhetoric. While we'll never truly know whether the vandalism was fueled by ego or sociopolitical rage, the video argues that the attack was no empty gesture, but rather a commentary on the corruption of large institutions and governmental bodies in the U.S. and Mexico.
"Don't look for me," Landeros says. "Look for the real criminals."
Landeros appears to have little intention of following the footsteps of Tony Shafrazi, who spray-painted "KILL ALL LIES" on Picasso's Guernica in 1974 only to become an art advisor to the Shah of Iran and a major blue chip art dealer by the start of the 1980s.
Here's a transcript of Landeros' English-language video (watch it above):
I dedicate this to everybody out there who has suffered any kind of injustice, whether from your family, your religion or from your government. And to Pablo Picasso, the intellectual artist who loved bullfighting and understood that, at the end of the dance, somebody had to die. And on this day, it was his turn — June 13, 2012.
I did this to turn heads, to raise awareness to the world, to make this a better place for everyone to live in. My intention was never to destroy Pablo's painting or to insult the Menil. If I would have wanted to destroy the painting, I would have ripped it with a knife or burnt it. But that was never my intention. I'm sorry for insulting anyone who has misunderstood my message, but I'm a good enough alchemist to know that the professionals in the Menil could easily restore the piece with a little bit of Windex.
"Don't look for me. Look for the real criminals."
My intentions are to give a voice to the public, to all those who go unheard of. Unfortunately, our society has become nothing but a corrupt, war-making, murdering, raping society. And all the religious and political leaders who will not fight against this problem are to blame. In fact, everybody who doesn't fight against this problem is only feeding this chaotic fire.
We can all do something to be better. And all those who are part of the problem should truly be persecuted and punished.
Why don't we begin to create a better society, a better world, a healthier one? Why is this government wasting society's money in a never-ending religious drug war, war that only kills our brothers and sisters, war that leaves families without their loved ones? Instead, focus on the real problem, the murders, the rapists, the thieves, the corrupt politicians in this war.
These are the real issues. That's why the world is so fucked up. Don't look for me. Look for the real criminals.
In the end, we all want the same thing — a safe society, a society where all the kids can run around and play safely in the street. But in order for this to work, everyone needs to stop being scared and to stand up for what is right. We cannot let fear control our society.
Why does the one percent control the 99 percent? It is time for some real change, ladies and gentlemen, some real change. This is the true symbolism behind my activist movement.
A rough take of the same speech has been posted on YouTube as well.