Wednesday, August 01, 2007

In defense of KET

If he is convicted of the charges against him, Alain Ket Maridueña could face up to 20 years in prison and huge financial penalties. All for allegedly painting several recent images on subway cars—something Maridueña says he has not done in over a decade.

There is no reason to doubt Maridueña’s word: the evidence against him is circumstantial and highly suspect; meanwhile, his professional and human caliber make him a pillar of urban arts on a global scale.

During the 1980s, the adolescent raised in Miami and New York gained international notoriety as an exponent of the emergent and controversial art form known as graffiti. Two decades later, the 37-year-old editor, hip-hop historian, activist and artist faces more than a dozen counts of felony criminal mischief and possession of graffiti tools.

In the words of another hip-hop historian, Jeff Chang, the case against Maridueña appears to be a classic case of payback: “In 2005, KET had curated Marc Ecko's block party, an event that paid tribute to graffiti pioneers and introduced the company's graf-styled video game. Mayor Bloomberg--who came into office talking tough about graffiti and street art--tried to revoke the event's permit, but after a heavily publicized court battle, the City was forced to reinstate the permit and the event was a huge success.[…] KET's central role as an unapologetic spokesperson, scholar, historian, and activist has made him a target of Bloomberg and NYPD.”

The flimsy evidence and the excessive charges against Maridueña have generated a huge wave of solidarity in the art world. Tonight, August 1st, The Hip-Hop Theater Festival will host a silent art auction and benefit for his legal defense at Brooklyn’s Powerhouse Arena titled THE WALLS BELONG TO US. It will feature sculptures, paintings and silk-screens by over a hundred world-renowned artists such as Martha Cooper, FUTURA 2000, Lee Quiñones, Lady Pink, Jamel Shabazz, Joe Conzo, COCO 144, MARE 139 and KEL 139. The auction close date is August 5th. For more info visit

If Maridueña deserves to be criminalized for “promoting” graffiti, then what will be next? Charging the administrators and curators of last year’s graffiti exhibit at Brooklyn Museum? Or is it that only artists get scapegoated?

For more information about Maridueña’s case, visit:

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