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The Ugly, Destructive Side of Graffiti

May 12, 2000

Mr. Kirsch's glowing review of Susan A. Phillips' "Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in L.A." (April 19) completely overlooks one critical point: Graffiti is vandalism. Gangs tag neighborhoods to express their control or their desire to control territory. Gang members deface private and public property in an effort to send a message of intimidation to all who view the so-called "art." Mr. Kirsch and Ms. Phillips are right about one thing: Graffiti is expressive. To some fortunate observers of art and culture, to quote from Mr. Kirsch's piece, graffiti expresses "identity" and "cultural values." Be that as it may, to many other less fortunate people, graffiti and the vandalism it entails express a much less sanguine message about destruction, blight and violence. Mr. Kirsch and Ms. Phillips focused on the problem--of the gangsters. Let us never lose sight of the many serious problems those same gangsters create for our friends, our neighbors, our city.

BRUCE RIORDAN

Los Angeles

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Hey, let's all "redefine" some spaces, and "manufacture inclusive or exclusive relationships." Even better, let's all show "a kind of acrobatic daring" and lean over any bookstore shelves displaying Susan A. Phillips' "Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in L.A." and deface, I'm sorry, I mean "interact" with her book by scrawling on every page of every copy, perhaps using "elaborate lettering styles."

Let's see how "compassionate and affectionate toward" us she is, or perhaps whether she "burns with outrage" when she sees our art. Hey, there are 383 pages to allow us "interaction" with her work, so better bring a big fat Magic Marker. Let's see who wants to pay $25 for a copy once it has been "redefined."

If you know where Jonathan Kirsch lives, you may want to "redefine" his garage door and see if he gushes as effusively over your work as he does over Phillips'.

RUSSELL K. BUCHAN

San Pedro

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Your article on graffiti notwithstanding, please note that only yesterday I took a bus trip from Laguna Woods in Orange County to La Can~ada Flintridge in Los Angeles County via the 5 freeway, the 57 freeway and the 210 freeway and back without seeing a single example of graffiti along the entire route.

I can only say that the programs to eliminate graffiti have been a total and complete success along this entire route. Somebody is due a boatload of congratulations.

R. CHARLTON JOHNSON

Laguna Hills

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