Uriel Landeros may have fled the country after tagging a 1929 Picasso at the Menil Collection in June, but the Houston artist is as controversial as ever — thanks to a nasty Facebook war surrounding his first solo gallery show, which opens on Oct. 26.
Trouble started last week, when the James Art Gallery — led by artist James Perez, who has represented Landeros since July — created a Facebook listing for the event, which unleashed a trash-talking session that quickly spread to the gallery's business account and onto another group page titled Uriel Landeros vs. Picasso.
Tensions peaked Thursday, when an online dispute between gallerist James Perez and Ho uston artist Jonatan Lopez led to accusations of homophobia.
Tensions peaked Thursday, when an online dispute between Perez and Houston artist Jonatan Lopez led to accusations of homophobia.
According to both men, Lopez doled out a particularly vulgar comment (something about not wearing a condom) with regard to Landeros' relationship with the James Gallery. Perez replied by posting a picture of Lopez wearing a tutu in a performance art piece with the note, "This is the little fag who is insulting out gallery. Nice tu tu johnathan."
Perez quickly found out that Lopez is gay and promptly removed the posts, along other negative comments from earlier in the week. Nevertheless, screen shots of the Perez' post continued to circulate, taking the Facebook war to new heights until Sunday, when conversation turned to the artist who tagged a Rothko painting at the Tate Modern.
On Monday, the James Gallery limited Landeros' show to 100 guests, warning that IDs would be checked and asking attendees to wear Halloween costumes. Needless to say, the guest list capped off almost immediately and the Facebook war continues. (Houston art blog The Great God Pan Is Dead posted highlights on Tuesday.)
Explanations, mea culpas and a museum show
"Honestly, I'm not offended by the 'fag' comment," Lopez told CultureMap Monday afternoon. "I'm proud of who I am and I'm glad to have friends who were so willing to defend me. I am offended, however, by what Uriel did to the Picasso. It sets a bad example for younger artists and I feel that someone needs to speak out against how ridiculous he is. It's so disrespectful."
Lopez explained that a lot of artists are upset by Landeros' willingness to damage someone else's art. "If he did this, explained himself and turned himself into the cops right away, maybe the act could've meant something. Otherwise, by running away, it's just become an empty gesture."
"Honestly, I'm not offended by the 'fag' comment," Lopez said. "I am offended, however, b y what Uriel did to the Picasso."
Perez — who, like Lopez, said he enjoys feeding the heated online battle — explained to CultureMap that his homophobic comment was a direct response to Lopez' sexually-charged insult.
"I had no idea he was gay," Perez said. "A lot of people in my life are gay, people very close to me. I would have never said that had I known and I really want to apologize to everyone I offended. It was a stupid, thoughtless thing for me to do. There's no excuse."
As far as Landeros' upcoming show is concerned, Perez noted that the artist's current work is further evolved than the pieces shown in the wake of the Picasso attack. He said a number of Landeros' new paintings have already been sold and that a museum in Mexico City will feature the artist in a forthcoming group show titled Los Irresputuosos (The Disrespectful).
"I was one of the first people to congratulate Uriel on Facebook after the incident and I'm proud to represent him. It was a ballsy thing he did and I think he kind of started something. Just look at what happen to that Rothko over the weekend . . . I think he's a genius, but he's not always well-spoken about what he's done. Hopefully, I can do that for him."
Uriel Landeros: Houston We Have a Problem will be on view from 7 to 11 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the James Art Gallery, located inside the Summer Street Studios directly across from the artist's old workspace. The guest list, unfortunately, is closed.