August 20, 2019

Downtown Mural Prompts Concern of Anti-Semitism

UPDATE: 3:54 p.m. on Feb. 26:

Jeff Norman, a representative of the Vortex, where a mural featuring Stars of David has caused consternation in the Jewish community, has defended the artist’s right to free expression and has invited anybody with a different message to paint a mural alongside the current one on the warehouse building in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Vortex stands for free expression,” Norman said in an email. “The artist whose mural includes the Star of David (created for the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago) did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message. We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it. We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

Reported earlier on Feb. 26:

The mural depicting anti-Semitic imagery appears to have been defaced since a photograph of it was shared on Feb. 25 on social media. Artists 4 Israel shared the following photograph of the mural, showing that someone spray-painted the words, “No Place for Hate,” over the mural:

Defaced mural. Courtesy of Artists 4 Israel

Asked who was responsible for defacing the mural, Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists for Israel, said he did not have any comment.

The mural appears to have been painted in 2011 for an art show called “vsWar.” The Journal obtained the following image through social media:

The painting of the mural in 2011. Courtesy of endlesscanvas.com

The downtown mural is causing concern among Los Angeles organizations and leaders for its depiction of a grim reaper wrapped inside an American flag emblazoned with Jewish stars. The figure appears to be dangling a dead baby from its grip. Other imagery includes a war rocket, snakes and what looks like a pile of money.

The Los Angeles artist Vyal painted the mural. He said on his Instagram page in 2018 that it was inspired by a trip he had taken “to Palestine some years back.”

The mural appears on the exterior wall of the Vortex, a performance space in an industrial neighborhood downtown.

Organizations that have expressed concern about the mural’s imagery include Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party, which shared a post on Facebook about it on Feb. 25.

“Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It’s wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion,” the organization said in the post, while tagging the Vortex’s Facebook page. “Signed, Some confused and concerned community members.”

Information about how long the mural has been up was not immediately available.

On Feb. 25, a Facebook user shared a photograph of the mural on his page. He said someone he knew had taken a photograph of the mural on Saturday, two days earlier.

The Vortex, meanwhile, describes itself as an independent community center that gives nonprofits access to an affordable performance space, according to its website.

This story is developing.