After spray-painting a 1929 Picasso at The Menil Collection in June, Uriel Landeros has been on the lam from state and federal authorities. While maintaining a low profile for more than two months, the young artist is beginning to share his thoughts on the Internet, including a fuller explanation of the motives that he posted on YouTube in late August.
CultureMap's received a detailed response from Landeros to questions. Via social media messaging, Landeros told CultureMap that his vandalism was an act driven by both politics and art, with a particular embrace of an activist philosophy seen in the Occupy movement.
Landeros says that the vandalism was an act driven by both politics and art, with a particular embrace of an activist philosophy seen in the Occupy movement.
He also discussed notions of cultural stewardship — an issue the Menil itself addressed during a public panel last November after the museum announced that its beloved Byzantine frescoes would be returning to their original owners, the Church of Cyprus.
Landeros even answered the million-dollar question about whether he felt a certain kinship with Tony Shafrazi, who spray-painted "Kill Lies All" on Picasso's Guernica in the mid 1970s before becoming a highly sought-after gallery owner.
CultureMap: As an artist, do you see your Picasso stencil primarily as an artistic act, a political act or both?
Uriel Landeros: Both, it took time and effort to organize the painting of my stencil. It was the art of being slick. Politically, because there are many people sick of the same old promises the elite government gives to the public.
And the public always loses. It's time to stand up against the machine.
CM: Do you see museums as being part of the One Percent?
UL: I love museums. I love appreciating art, but it makes me mad when I go into museums and I see archeological artifacts from different countries there. Most of those pieces have been stolen, along with the culture that the people from their origins can no longer have in their country. Being of Hispanic descent, it infuriates me and reminds me how much of our culture has been stolen and is now in Europe.
The Menil is an institution that has items with more value than money. You cannot buy archeology with money, you have to take it and steal it from someone else if you want it. That is what many museums have done with what belongs to the the public.
But many don't want to see the truth . . . It's like a blood diamond.
CM: Do you feel any connection to Tony Shafrazi's Guernica vandalism in 1974? He, of course, went on to become a mega-art dealer during the '80s boom years.
UL: Tony is a great art dealer . . . That's all I have to say.