Please scroll down for updates to this evolving story…
Today in Los Angeles a culturally significant work of art, created by some of the world’s best known artists, was destroyed by a private company. That company is Graffiti Control Systems. We at TACO wondered who they are and how this happened.
Graffiti Control Systems, AKA Woods Maintenance Services is a business in the City of North Hollywood, located at 7260 Atoll Ave, North Hollywood, CA. They
have had a presence on Facebook here, (their Facebook page has been taken down), on Yelp here, and their website is here. According to manta.com, the company has revenues of between $10m and $20m per year.
The President of the company is Barry Woods who is quite the poker player having racked up over $200,000 in poker winnings according to his profile on PokerPages.com. The General Manager is Jeff Woods (see update with quote below), and the company has between 50-100 employees.
The city of Los Angeles contracts with Graffiti Control Systems to remove graffiti citywide. While it’s easy to understand that the city would want to assist business owners with getting rid of unauthorized tags on private property, what’s harder to understand is why the city’s artistic treasures are being destroyed using our tax dollars. Or perhaps it’s not that hard to figure out. We live in a country with private prisons, private red light cameras, and private armies. Removing a tag on a utility box doesn’t bring in much revenue, but a giant work of art on a building is a much bigger contract. When the City incentivizes private companies to make money by buffing walls, that company is going to go out and look for the biggest walls it can find. At this point we don’t know the details of this particular act of destruction, but the fact remains that a private company, possibly authorized by the city, vandalized a great work of art. The destruction may have been an accident, but it was a tragic one and someone needs to be held accountable.
UPDATE 1: According to REVOK, one of the artists whose work was vandalized, the fence was forced open by the Graffiti Removal Systems personelle and they were only stopped when the building owner, who is devastated, intervened.
UPDATE 2: According to Known Gallery on Fairfax, home to many of the artists whose work was destroyed, Canter’s Deli asked the city
to remove stickers on Fairfax Blvd, to repair a mural that had been tagged. The city sent Graffiti Control Systems, who then apparently decided to start freelancing on Fairfax.
UPDATE 3: Dennis Romero of the LA Weekly has the following statement from GM Jeff Woods:
It was a mistake. We did not do it maliciously. It turned out to be misinformation. There was no intent whatsoever to destroy a mural. We were informed by people in the neighborhood that it was an illegal mural and was to come down. As soon as we were informed on site that it was there with permission we ceased removal.
It’s unfortunate that a priceless artwork could be damaged because of “people in the neighborhood”. There should be much more oversight, but there isn’t because despite recent advances (such as the upcoming MOCA show), ‘graffiti’ is still not an approved art form and it’s vulnerable to this kind of action. We’re also trying to figure out why someone would spend money on paint and labor to just buff any old mural– does the city pay after the fact? If so, who decides what gets buffed? They just ask around the neighborhood and go on people’s word? The whole thing doesn’t make much sense and there are still a lot of questions to be answered.