15 Minutes of Infamy?

Menil Picasso vandal's own paintings are spray painted: His art show debut turns into a circus

Menil Picasso vandal's own paintings are spray painted: His art show debut turns into a circus

Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros [with additional work by unknown taggers], The Artist Ego, 2012 Photo by Tyler Rudick
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
The opening reception doubled as a Halloween party . . . Most popular costume? Uriel Landeros. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Sonia Azad from KTRK Ch. 13 asked Landeros questions via Skype. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Gallery owner James Perez, who organized the show, poses in front a group project piece lead by Landeros. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros [with additional work by unknown taggers], Tears of Gold, 2012. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros [with additional work by unknown taggers], Breast Milk, 2012. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal
Uriel Landeros, show opening, October 2012, Picasso vandal

Struggling artist and Menil Picasso vandal Uriel Landeros had quite the October . . . Not only did he get his first solo show at the age of 22, but he had the Associated Press and the New York Times writing about it.

Whether you see any value or statement in Landeros' spray paint attack at The Menil Collection in June or not, the drama and buzz surrounding the incident has created a rather tense-but-compelling dialogue in the Houston arts community. On one side, there are those supporting Landeros' self-professed political motives. On the other hand, many view the vandalism as nothing more than an outrageous defacing of a treasure.

Nearly all of the dozen or so paintings on display had been tagged by local graffiti artists. 

Until Landeros turns himself into authorities or is caught at his alleged hideout in northern Mexico, the debate surely will continue.

All factions were present at the opening reception for Uriel Landeros: Houston We Have a Problem, a small exhibition of new work by the artist organized by Houston gallerist James Perez. In the days leading up to the premiere, enough buzz was generated — largely due a Facebook war of words between Perez and the critics — to catch the attention of major news organizations across the country.

On Friday night, several news vans and a food truck were parked in front of Summer Street Studios, the former home of Landeros' art studio and the current location of Perez's James Gallery

As far as art openings go, the party was memorable . . . right down to the free forties (liquor bottles), the particularly good DJ, the off-duty police officers and the man wearing a gigantic basket on his head (guests were encouraged to wear Halloween costumes).

Nearly all of the dozen or so paintings on display had been tagged by local graffiti artists, Perez told CultureMap, adding that a number of pieces had already sold. The art, for the most part, resembled much of Landeros' earlier material, albeit with looser paintwork. Admittedly, it was difficult to get a sense of the work beneath the layers of supplemental spray paint.

"I'm not going give up on my cause. It doesn't matter if I turn myself in or not. It's doesn't mean I'm going to stop fighting." 

In a online message to CultureMap, Landeros explained that the titles given to his work at the James Gallery (such as Breast Milk, Tears of Gold and F!$# Art) show were not his own. He also wanted to stress his continued association with the Occupy Movement.

Landeros, who Skyped into the show from a cyber cafe along the Mexico-United States border, was the star of the evening as he fielded questions from friends, family and reporters. Through a spotty Internet connection, the artist told the crowd that he will continue to share the politics behind his Menil attack, but his future plans remain undecided.

"I'm not going give up on my cause,"Landeros said. "It doesn't matter if I turn myself in or not. It's doesn't mean I'm going to stop fighting . . .  I haven't decided what I'm going to do.

"I'd rather continue with what I'm fighting for, to try and change people's minds."

Before and after the Skype sessions, Houston artist and documentary filmmaker Ernesto Leon screened a series interviews he taped with Landeros in mid October. For more, check out a compilation of their discussions.