Morphesis Re-Tagged The Day After Re-Cleaning… WAR!!!!! But we’re kind of smiling because…

As I was finishing up an answer to a comment on the blog post about the new surveillance system ( when the phone rang and it was Vincent Moreno, Vandalism Abatement Coordinator for Caltrans.

WAR!!!!! The mural got tagged again last night! But we are smiling, kind of…Here’s the low down: If you’ve been following this, you know that on Thurs of this week we finished cleaning off the graffiti and a new video surveillance system was installed at the mural. Vincent was sure that the mural would be re-tagged in an effort by the vandals to “make their statement.” Well, he was right!

Vincent passed by the mural last evening at about 8:45 to check on the video cameras and he was notified at 9:51 that the camera alarms had been set off. It appears that the vandals hit this part of the mural (see photo):

Area that was re-tagged

This is the area that was re-tagged

Vincent said that it looked like they were about to graffiti over the entire lower half like they did last time but had only started on the first couple of letters when they got scared and ran off.  We don’t know if they saw the video cameras or got scared off by someone. I don’t have an actual photo of the tag. I won’t see it till Monday.

Actually, Vincent and I are, in a way, glad for this attempt to re-tag the mural because it puts to the test the equipment just installed. There are several things that need to be fine tuned when a system like this is installed: with this video we may be able to identify the taggers (Vincent won’t see the video till Monday). Is the video good enough to see them clearly? It gives Vincent something by which to judge the quality of the IR viewing capabilities, the focus, the placement of the cameras, the quality of the system.

From what Vincent says, it appears that not much of the mural has been tagged and if they don’t come back to finish the job later and make a bigger mess, then I’m hoping that we will be able to remove this tagging in a few hours. If they do come back to finish the job, the cameras will be reset and waiting for them.

We’re going to be back “on the wall” Monday at 11 am to clean it off.

So, what do you think? Keep going back to clean off the graffiti? Or give up and let the vandals win? Public art and social order or graffiti and anarchy? Leave a comment below and give us your support with a THUMBS UP!

Want to contribute something to help keep the graffiti off the murals? Donate here:

After tagging removed Dec 2011

Mural with graffiti removed December 2011

Restoration questions? Call Scott Haskins at 213 620 9125

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Questions for the artist? Kent Twitchell 310 709 2037

Here is the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles’ website:

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video surveillance, protecting public art, kent twitchell, jim morphesis, caltrans, 1984 olympic freeway murals, scott haskins, FACL, MCLA, mural conservation, art restoration, mural conservancy, graffiti removal, mural maintenance, catching taggers

About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at
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4 Responses to Morphesis Re-Tagged The Day After Re-Cleaning… WAR!!!!! But we’re kind of smiling because…

  1. Leonor De Fuentes says:

    Since, when is graffiti part of disorder, since when is anarchism, tagging. According to the Webster’s Dictionary the term anarchism is defined as the following: the doctrine of the abolishment of all forms of goverment because they are oppressive and undesirable. Could this be due to fact that there is more money invested in graffiti abatement programs versus actual youth art programs. Instead of patroling the freeways, why didnt MCLA or FACL have a community mural day before conserving the mural, meeting the community of Belmont Heights, Alvarado, the community that surrounds the freeways. The reporting of the Morphesis is beginning to sound and look like the keystone Kops at work. Is the restoration of this mural worth it ? It seems that the super ego is creeping out and taking over common sense. I’d suggest invest the money on the children and youth. It will be better spent.

    • Scott M. Haskins says:

      Thanks for leaving the comment and I’m glad someone actually noted my label of “anarchy” and commented on it.
      “Since when is graffiti part of disorder” you asked? Really, you are asking this???!! Well, since it’s a felony, in the case of these murals. Since it is destruction of public property and the destruction of copyrighted material.
      “Anarchy” is a label I applied to this in-your-face attack on public property and civil disobedience. Anarchy is the lawless attack and disregard for authority that involves destruction of civic property, attacks civic pride which is all part of a breaking down of society. But, as you might understand, I’m not insinuating that these kids who are tagging are actually part of an organized political party of anarchists. Its a “poetic” label I threw out there…
      Your idea about community outreach is a favorite part of MCLA’s agenda as you suggest it should be. And I have already agreed to a request by Isabel Rojas-Williams, MCLA Exec. Director, to speak at and conduct workshops and donate my time. But that idealistic effort does not curb the destruction of the public art.
      By labeling our efforts as the “Keystone Cops” do you mean our maintenance efforts of public art appear confused, mindless or like we’re bumbling the efforts? Well, that’s perhaps your personal perception of when we clean it, they tag it, we clean it, they tag it… BTW, there’s a commitment on MCLA’s part to maintain the art… so we at FACL will be back whenever they tag it. What you don’t see is that they, each time, leave more evidence that is followed up on by law enforcement which we wholeheartedly endorse.

      One more item of discussion, in my conversations with Caltrans and law enforcement, we the public usually underestimate the connections graffiti has with other nefarious activities in the community. It is followed up on vigorously and prosecuted because the activity is usually connected with drugs, robbery and guns. Hey, there’s another support point for my “anarchy” poetically worded label.

  2. Isabel Rojas-Williams says:

    Thank you for putting up the info right away on your blog! I am informing the Board of Directors about the tagging and about Caltrans actions to protect the mural. I am again, FURIOUS! And, thank you Scott for understanding the need of making a difference between “Graffiti Art” and tagging. As it is and as lately, we, the ones that are dealing with these words everyday have been asked by the Graffiti Artists to use the term “aerosol art” instead of “Graffiti Art.” I am going to give it a try!

    And again, thank you for your dedication and for keeping me in the loop.
    Isabel Rojas-Williams
    Executive Director
    Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA)

  3. Diane Stevenett says:

    After spending a week cleaning this mural with you Scott, and then coming back again to clean the first tag, I am horrified of the continual “art abuse” shown by another human(s). For me, it is an issue of “respect” or lack of, for artists.
    Very excited to see justice done. Kudos for Vincent!
    I’m with my Brother Daryl who just told me of his friend who can watch a perpetrator on his “Cell Phone”
    when his alarm goes off on his security system. WE should be able to do that. Check it out.

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