Christian Gheorghiu is a sensation in the Los Angeles art world. He gained brand recognition for his nickname “Smear,” by tagging it thousands of times across the walls, lampposts and riverbed of Los Angeles. Now, the city attorney’s office is seeking a first-of-its kind injunction against him and nine others to prevent them from profiting off their “unlawful marketing.” If granted, the injunction would prevent those ten from selling photographs of their illegal graffiti and from carrying “graffiti tools”—paint, markers, pens and pencils—in public between 10 pm and 5 am. Similar injunctions have been upheld throughout Los Angeles in the case of gangs, but Gheorghiu has no past gang convictions. The ACLU calls the lawsuit an assault on artistic freedom and a violation of the group’s first amendment rights; it intends to dictate art; and to bar those who break into the art world illegally from profiting in their later career. The city attorney’s office argues the injunction simply seeks to deter unlawful graffiti. The debate of course harkens back to the perennial question: what is art?
Peter Bibring, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California; represents Gheorghiu and one other defendant
Anne Tremblay, assistant city attorney who supervises the office’s gang unit and is an expert on the graffiti injunction
Steve Grody, author of Graffiti L.A.: Streetstyles and Art; has been documenting graffiti in Los Angeles for over 20 years
“Splash” by Cristian Gheorghiu, Courtesy of Cristian Ghierghou/theartofsmear.com