What goes up must come down, or so the saying goes. In the case of a recent wheatpaste piece by El Peezo, the comedown was quick.
The anonymous Phoenix artist put up a wheatpaste rendition of a Jeeves-ian butler on an exterior wall at Bentley Projects on the evening of Thursday, April 24. The following day, Bentley had the paper piece, which was adhered with a mixture of starch and water, removed.
"You win some, you lose some," El Peezo tells New Times via e-mail.
While El Peezo says he isn't surprised to see his work removed because he doesn't get permission before pasting his pieces, Bentley Gallery director John Reyes says he was befuddled upon finding the work when he drove to the gallery on the morning of Friday, April 25.
"I asked if anyone knew anything about this," Reyes says. "Nobody knew anything. So it had to come down. There was no communication from anybody's camp."
The artist was a finalist for the 2014 Big Brain Awards and pasted the artwork on Bentley the night before Artopia, an event hosted by New Times that includes the announcement of the Big Brain Award winners. Because he wishes to remain anonymous, he told New Times that he did not plan to attend the event and he didn't want to be interviewed about his work.
But he wanted to have some kind of presence at Artopia. Without permission from the gallery, he pasted up the butler and hoped it would remain at least through the evening of April 25. The nature of his work is temporary, and he's had pieces removed before. When they haven't been taken down, they gradually erode due to their delicate nature.
"[I] was inspired by being nominated as a finalist, and the fact I couldn't give your writers a proper interview," El Peezo says. "Had to leave my mark somehow."
When Palabra owner Jorge Torres found an El Peezo piece on his the side of business, he didn't take it down.
"I honestly thought it was clever and attractive," Torres says via e-mail. "Ultimately, I've decided to welcome El Peezo as part of the art collective and designate a part of the storefront to him. The pieces are simply works of art."
But Bentley wasn't interested in displaying El Peezo's unsolicited work for a few reasons.
Reyes says that he doesn't mind El Peezo's anonymity, but he would've appreciated a call letting the gallery workers know the artist's intentions.
"Sometimes people need to be given a bit of a heads up. [But] I understand that takes away from some of what that art is," he says of El Peezo's guerrilla artist methods.
Apart from the piece going up unexpectedly, Reyes says, there were concerns as to how the piece was adhered to the wall and whether the piece would damage the block work.
"For the sake of the building and not knowing what the materials were, we took it down," he says, noting that the piece was removed with water.
El Peezo's take on the removal reflects a hierarchy within the art world. "With the status that Bentley holds they only see it as defacing property like graffiti," he says.
When asked to comment on the merit of the work, Reyes describes it as "fine." Noting that Bentley has represented graffiti artists, including Phoenix's DOSE, and exhibited Keith Haring's works in the past, he says that the gallery looks at graffiti incidents on a case-by-case basis.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Would Reyes consider the El Peezo piece art?
"I would say it has its place," he says. "Art has such a huge definition . . . But it has its place. Let's put it that way."
And that place is, apparently, not on the wall of an art gallery.