“Once Upon a Time…” Opens at Coagula, Rock Star Gets All Butt Hurt

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Art thrives on controversy. The Pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists, the Surrealists, the Cubists, Abstract Expressionists, Low Brows, and Pop Surrealists all created varying amounts of furor when they were first shown. Some caused riots, others a reassessment of concepts and collections. Aside from Deitch at MoCA there hasn’t been much of stir in the Los Angeles art world lately, so thank gods for Mat Gleason at Coagula Curatorial whose latest show by Laura London, originally called “Once Upon a Time…Axl Rose (oh shit, we can’t say his name because he threatened to sue Coagula and London) Was My Neighbor” resulted in international headlines because the shall-remain-nameless rock star had his lawyer send out a cease and desist letter. And the rock star’s ex-wife, who I’m also not gonna bother naming, also had her attorney mail the same sort of missives.

The bone of contention is one piece in the exhibit, a huge photograph of a garage door spray painted with graffiti. The garage in question was attached to the house where the rock star once lived with now ex-wife; they were in a fight at the time Laura London snapped the image. Fast forward to years later, and London used the image as the launching pad for a photographic installation that explores the concepts of celebrity, gender and re-imagination. The rock star’s attorney demanded that Gleason and London stop using his client’s name in the show, accusing them of trying to line their pockets and profit off his name. Oh and the lawyer demanded that the show come down before it opened. Or else be faced with

 an action against you for defamation, seeking millions of dollars in compensatory, consequential and punitive damages, injunctive relief and recovery of future earnings.

Oh puhleeze.  Considering all this rock star has done in his life (I was a reporter on the Spin Magazine cover story about him, so I went through piles articles about said rock star along with reading the abuse lawsuits filed by his ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend–not pretty), spray painting his wife’s garage door (which he didn’t do according to both him and his ex-wife) would have been pretty minor. (Dear attorney for unnamed rock star, please note the conditional tense of the verb “would” used in the proceeding sentence.)

Imagine being the guy who–oh never mind, that incident is too ugly to mention here–imagine being the guy whose pathologies and bad behaviors have been very well  and very publicly documented in various media, and are available to be read at Santa Monica Superior Court, and then getting all butt hurt because someone claimed you spay painted a garage door like twenty years ago–long, long after the statute of limitations is over. Holy let’s-pray-for-some-November-rain, somebody’s got way too much time on his hands and a very dainty ego! But some how that garage door thing hit a nerve. Maybe he didn’t want to be thought of as illiterate, since there’s definitely some apostrophe abuse in the graffiti.

Coagula’s Mat Gleason and artist Laura London removed the rock star’s name from materials relating to the show, posted notices, and opened as scheduled to a packed house. London’s strong photographs mirror many famous images of the rock star and the band he was in, as well as  documenting the process she went through to get those shots.  My favorite is the model dressed as the litigious rock star walking down the sidewalk in a heavy embroidered coat and large floppy hat in bright sunlight, cut off from the beauty of the world around him, completely wrapped up in himself, covered by his hair and cheap finery. Considering the rock star is playing twelve nights in Vegas soon, he should be happy that he inspired such a photographic introspection/exhibition.

Downstairs at Coagula, Curt Lemieux‘s  mixed media portraits won’t get anyone sued. They’re all of dead presidents.

“Once Upon a Time…” Laura London and “Presidential Portraits” Curt Lemieux
Through October 26
Coagula Curatorial
977 Chung King Road
Chinatown, Los Angeles 90012
Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 5pm and by appointment


In case you’re unclear on the concept of “the fine line between constructed narrative and documentary, private portraiture and celebrity posing” in the artist’s statement.

Srsly, this squeaky wheel needs to get over himself.

If you’ve got the money, honey…London’s limited prints run $3,800 to $8,500

Welcome to the jungle.

Sweet cake o’ mine

Take me down to paradise city where the lawyers sue anyone I want

The first of Curt Lemieux’s  show “Presidential Portraits”

Lemieux’s installation covers Washington to Nixon


Coagula’s Wendy Sherman and Mat Gleason, CARTWHEEL’s Cindy Schwarzstein

photos 1-8: Lisa Derrick

photos 9, 10: Cindy Schwarzstein

photo 11: Nice person at Coagula using Cindy’s camera


  1. Renée
    October 1, 2012

    Cindy! You rock, this is a hysterical, and quite fabulous article about the show. I’m the director at Anat Ebgi Gallery, we met at Art Platform this week. So happy to see this, thanks for writing it!

  2. Martha
    October 2, 2012

    Uh, this show is HORRENDOUS!!! Maybe ***I*** should save my toilet paper and call that an exhibit??? That’s about how good this one is!!! Look into it!!! Not just saying this because I’m a GNR fan (that helps, though) but this show just plain out SUCKS ASS!!! LOL!!! Look at it, look at the price list the photographer’s asking for each photograph (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link in pdf format), and prepare to RUN to the toilet!!! LOL!!! Have to agree with Axl on this one… And, the use of the word “like”?!?!?! How, uh, GAY?!?!?! PALEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :P::::::::::::::::::::::::

  3. lisa
    October 2, 2012

    Oh hai! Cindy didn’t write this. I did. Cindy is our publisher. My name is Lisa Derrick, and you can read more of my stuff here, on Firedoglake.com and on Huffington Post. Thanks for reading CARTWHEEL, look forward to visiting Anat Ebi Gallery.

  4. Martha
    October 2, 2012

    Interesting that my previous comment hasn’t been posted (?!?!?!)!!! It’s obvious this site, Cartwheel, will NOT post a differing opinion than that from the original poster/Lisa Derrick because they are BIASED!!! That’s not how the commenting system is meant to work, people!!! I’ll make sure everyone knows about this one!!!

  5. Martha
    October 2, 2012

    I see that it’s been posted. Thank you!

  6. lisa
    October 2, 2012

    Martha is referring to her comment about Laura London’s show at Coagula. You can read her original insightful, and literate comment there.

    And Martha, perhaps you should relax a little. But thanks for letting “everyone know” about CARTWHEEL.

  7. lisa
    October 2, 2012

    Martha, I look forward to your toilet paper installation. Or seeing any of your art exhibited. Please keep us updated. Also please be aware that your use of the word “gay” to mean something you dislike is a slur and hate speech, and reflects poorly on you as a art critic, a human being, and a GNR fan.

  8. Martha
    October 2, 2012

    Lisa, the furthest you would be from anything I do could only make me happy so thank you very much and please do stick to that! You sound very arrogant in this article for someone so unattractive. My use of the word “gay” was sarcasm (look it up). I’ve read a couple of your articles. They have a very kiss-ass tone. I just find it very strange you feel the need to bash someone you don’t even know (ie. Axl Rose). Perhaps YOU should relax a little!

  9. lisa
    October 2, 2012

    How is this article “bashing” Axl Rose? Since you claim to be a fan of his you must be aware of his twenty-five year history of bad behavior. I stand by my comment regarding your use of the word “gay.” And claiming sarcasm/humor is a coward’s way out.

    That aside, I am really curious why you dislike Laura London’s photographs. Have you seen the exhibit? Is it the subject matter that bothers you, that an artist would use celebrity and rock iconography as a jumping off point? Is it her composition? Her use of lighting? Your interplay of gender roles? Or are you simply upset because a rock star you admire got upset and thus you feel you must follow suit?

    Please stick to art criticism, not ad hominem attacks. If you can’t manage that, kindly step off off your high horse and get lost.

  10. Martha
    October 2, 2012

    Your whole ARTICLE bashes Axl Rose! You’re just jumping on the TIRED Axl Rose-bashing bandwagon that a lot of other people are doing because they just need something to vent about. Talk about unoriginal!!! And, let’s see… Twenty-five year history of bad behavior? I seem to recall SOME years but not even close to twenty-five. A lot of people know he’s considered “reclusive” (too reclusive to get up to any “bad behavior”). And, don’t even bother mentioning the R&R Hall Of Fame. Anyone has a right to say no to something they don’t want to be a part of and plenty of people think the R&R Hall Of Fame is ridiculous anyways (Madonna being inducted? Is she rock n’ roll?)… Why is his ex-wife, Erin Everly, backing him up regarding the lawsuit of this show, then, if HIS behavior is so bad?

    I have seen all of the photographs on Coagula’s web site and they are AWFUL, in my opinion. The fat, unattractive man they got to represent Slash??? Honestly, I would be offended if I was Slash… There are a few good things but most of it just seems like this photographer couldn’t come up with any theme for a show so she pulled something out of her past in the 1980’s, for God’s sake (!!!) IN THE 1980’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This show would have been A LOT more interesting if the models were actually attractive like GNR (I do like the female Axl Rose)… Maybe would have been a lot better if all of the band members were female!

    The main beef about this show, though, is the fact that he did not spray paint the garage as the photographer originally claimed. Just like the lawsuit from Axl states… It’s obvious that this photographer is just trying to capitalize to get money and TOO MUCH money considering what she’s asking for each photograph considering they’re CRAP!!! ROTFLOL!!! Talk about greedy and unoriginal!

  11. LL
    October 2, 2012

    Martha seems to be a very angry and bitter person. Is this what happens when you listen to GNR too often?

  12. lisa
    October 2, 2012

    Martha, I never mentioned the Hall of Fame. You did, and very much in depth, too. With regards to Erin Everly, her lawsuit against Axl Rose for abuse, settled in her favor for a rather large sum, is very educational. It should still be in the public record, and accessible at the Santa Monica Superior Court House.

    Why do you think the artist used the models she did? What commentary do you think she was making by using those models? By choosing those particular images to recreate? These questions are not an attack on you or your strongly held views, but rather queries for you to look beyond the obvious, and also to question why your feelings about Axl Rose and GNR will not allow you to look beyond what you perceive as an insult to your hero.

    And as far as this being something pulled out of the 1980s, your passion for GNR appears based on passion for music created in the 1980s, a passion which has you outraged over an artist’s interpretation of your hero in that time period. Greek and Roman myths, tales from the Bible, from classical history were all subjects for painters, as were battles fought decades earlier and recreations of historical figures and events, so why can’t a photographer recreate mythic images of modern icons using gender bending twists as commentary? Granted some of those artistic interpretations caused outrage as well; you may want to read about the reactions to the pre-Raphaelites, (especially John Everett Millais) who used everyday people,as models for Biblical figures, painting hte Holy Family as poor and kinda grotty, really pissed off folks. And we’re talking 1850!

    Now about the cost of art: For a shoot like that, models must be hired, stylists must be hired, clothes and studios rented. And from that there is the cost of printing each print, often numerous times to get things right–as well as, and most importantly, the cachet of the artist’s name which is born out their talent and perseverance.

    Someone may see a photo in a gallery with a price tag and think “Oh I’ve taken that same shot with my iPhone, and look this jerk’s selling it for like four grand, what a crock!” Yeah, the speaker may have snapped a similar picture as the artist. But have they gone through the effort to create a body of work, printed numerous copies to insure the colors are just right, and done what needs to be done end up on a wall so that passers-by can say, “I’ve taken that picture.”? You’re seeing a photo with a price tag. What you are not seeing is the months and years of work it took to get to hang on a gallery wall. Anyone can say “Oh I could do that!” BUT HAVE THEY? Are they driven enough to create, to communicate through their work to carry through; or are they simply sounding fury and signifying nothing except they inability or unwillingness to look deeper (and why do they have those blocks?)

  13. Martha
    October 3, 2012

    Lisa, With regards to Erin Everly again, she is backing Axl Rose up in regards to the false accusations (ie. the spray painted garage door). That definitely sounds like she’s more than likely moved on to me so I wonder why YOU can’t seem to move on (???). None of the questions in your second paragraph interest me because I just basically don’t like most of the photographs!!! I don’t have to explain why and no one else does either if they don’t like them… Plenty of people walk into art openings and “just don’t like the show” and, honestly, that’s my opinion of this one. There is a song by GNR titled Right Next Door To Hell about Axl having problems with a neighbor and it was posted somewhere recently that possibly LL is the person this song is about. Could this be revenge on your part, LL??? If so, I would like to see you write a long commentary on THAT, Lisa. I would like to know why someone might still be so pissed off about a neighbor enough to create a show and make false accusations against the subject, etc., and charge such outrageous fees per each photograph… I would also like to know why you dislike Axl so much, Lisa. What are you gaining from that? Does it make you feel great to jump on a bandwagon that likes to bash someone forever? What do you get out of that? Do you think it’s funny? Do you like to bash people you don’t know a lot? And, why? Do you know that people have committed suicide from people bashing on them? Does that thought make you feel good? Do you know if he has tried to make amends to people and do you know if other people have said or done things to HIM that were nasty? Maybe we should think about those questions.

  14. Lisa Derick
    October 3, 2012

    Martha, I stand by my post and what I wrote in it. It was a look at the controversy surrounding the art and its subjects, the art itself, and a report of what happened at the show, not a retrospective apologia about the Axl Rose. His rabid fans can take care of that, as you have so clearly demonstrated.

    And as far as bullying/bashing goes, you are the person who made a homophobic slur and then began to attack me, calling me “so unattractive,” so really, I’ll turn your question, “Do you like to bash people you don’t know a lot?” around and ask you, “Do you like to bash and bully people you don’t know at all?”

    Laura London’s art show is about stardom and how it affects people, both the celebrity and those who know him/her in real life and those who feel they know him/her through their public persona. It is clear that Axl Rose as a celebrity has significantly affected you, thus proving the artist’s point and the merit of her work.

    My final word: http://youtu.be/KgpiN9i45XM

  15. Martha
    October 3, 2012

    I stand behind MY posts and EVERYTHING IN THEM which is BASICALLY exposing the truth and everyone KNOWS it!!! Rabid fan (good try)? If I was such a rabid fan, as you say, I would be doing everything I could to see GNR in Vegas next month but I am opting to be responsible and pay off some big bills, etc. Would and will go if I can, though… Same for the charity concert they’re playing about 2 and 1/2 hours from me here this month!!! So keep on riding on your BORING, “I am so smart I have to keep making stupid points with blinders on” because NO ONE CARES OTHER THAN YOU OR I WHAT WE’RE SAYING, OBVIOUSLY!!! HA!!! HA!!! GOOD FUCKING TRY!!! I’m done talking to you, also, as you’re just one annoying, UNATTRACTIVE, and boring asshole in a SEA of let’s just jump on the bandwagon and constantly bash someone we don’t know assholes and a waste of my time!!! I should have blocked your stupid ass on Facebook after deleting you from my friend’s list because your kiss ass posts are beyond obnoxious!!! Kissing John Roecker’s ass… LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are never going to get laid by him because you are TOO UNATTRACTIVE so give it up!!! Same with Mat Gleason/owner of the gallery having this show which is probably why you sound so KISS ASS about this HORRENDOUS show that it’s obvious NO ONE CARES ABOUT (ie. just LOOK at all of the millions of other people posting in this thread besides you and me and LL aka. Laura London who posted one sentence)!!! EVERYONE KNOWS THIS SHOW SUCKS because no one GIVES A RAT’S ASS as evidenced in EVERY SINGLE OTHER THREAD about this show and the lawsuit online… And, oh, why have I not mentioned GOOD LUCK winning a lawsuit from Axl Rose?!?!?! ANYONE WITH AN EFFIN’ BRAIN knows that’s a major f-up right there being in a lawsuit with a RICH CELEBRITY!!! So, keep on riding on your obnoxious high horse and living in your boring glass house with your lazy, kiss-ass journalism (ie. let’s just continue to bash AND BULLY Axl Rose because a ton of other people are doing it and I have nothing better to do, say, or write so I’ll just follow suit)!!! And, look at who is bashing and bullying FIRST, might I ad!!! LAZY!!! LAZY!!! LAZY!!!

    So, I’m done with you, thank GOD, and my final word on this AND you which is a post by someone else on another web site regarding this lawsuit:

    Janey Davenport-Carter · Top Commenter
    regardless true or false,this woman has no right to make money of him or anyone else,plain and simple.We all know what has happened or hasn’t happened in the past when it comes to Axl Rose.but why keep throwing his past back at him,like everyone else is so perfect,so this lady can make a 1.00,just so wrong,she should take his lawyers advice and move on She might just be in for a rude awaking.Just my opinion:)


  16. Lisa Derick
    October 3, 2012


    Her fangirl rants aside, I’m glad Martha mentioned John Roecker. Roecker is multi-media artist and film director who curated the huge “Forming” installation at Track 16 which documented the early days of punk rock in Los Angeles.He is the director of the cult film Live Freaky DIe Freaky, the webseries Svengali and the intense documentary series Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars…, Roecker’s naive-styled assemblage, collage and mixed medium paintings and sculpture delve into gay iconography (Roecker is openly gay) like Judy Garland, turning points in Los Angeles culture like the Manson murders and punk rock, war crimes, sex, and religion (Roecker was raised Catholic). His pieces are in your face and confrontational, designed to shock and provoke. One of my favorite art projects he’s been doing is buying paintings at the 99 Cent Store, painting them over with his own work, and then placing them back in the store where people then buy them.

  17. Martha
    October 3, 2012

    P.S. (I forgot to add… And, as for bashing and bullying, perhaps the most damaging aspect of bullying comes from “subtle and manipulative play of words” as opposed to reactions to said subtle and manipulative play of words (ie. the subtle and manipulative use of the phrase “Gets All Butt Hurt” at the end of your title)… You knowing Axl Rose’s background so much yourself obviously knows he was sodomized by his father when he was a baby or very young child. So, I find that rather telling you using that phrase in your title AS WELL as article/post (ie. initial bullying play of words starting with the title of the article/post throughout the WHOLE ARTICLE/POST). Have you ever been sexually abused?! I’m sure a lot of sexual abuse victims LOVE that one, but you seem like someone who wouldn’t give a fuck, in all honesty!!! That’s the end of my posts, I’m sure you’re glad to know THANK YOU!!!)

  18. Martha
    October 3, 2012

    Kissing Roecker’s ass for the millionth time!!! ROTFLOL!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! Good luck to you!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe if you were an ATTRACTIVE GUY OR FEMALE!!! ROTFLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOD LUCK!!! ROTFLOL!!!!!! I’m sure he appreciates that and probably LOVES that but that is ALL YOU HAVE TO USE (your BORING KISS-ASS words/posts/articles and Facebook where I have actually seen people being EXTREMELY BORED and ANNOYED by you so much I just had to BLOCK your BORING ASS FINALLY TODAY TO KEEP FROM BEING ANNOYED)!!! GOOD DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Lisa Derrick
    October 3, 2012


    And nothing of value was lost.

  20. Martha
    October 3, 2012

    From another poster in a thread on another web site regarding this show:

    If I were her,I wouldn’t even go there with this,she is really going to have a problem,I guess anyone thinks they have the right to make money off of someone else.Actually I hope she does,then she will have crossed the wrong person,and she will get what she deserves.Axl is someone I wouldn’t cross.

    Maybe being smart should be the moral of this story!!!

  21. Martha
    October 4, 2012

    I apologize, Lisa, for any unneccessary attacks on you personally (ie. the unattractive comment, etc.) and to the gay community for the use of the word “gay”. I did not intend to use it in the way it may have come across. I regret and apologize for any personal attacks against any parties involved here but I do stand behind my feelings regarding this show and the attacks that I feel were unneccessarily made in this article. This is definitely my last post as I have to move on. Thank you!

  22. Dan
    October 5, 2012

    I’ve never seen the papers, I wonder if they’d be on the LA county website, or it’s too far back. Surprised Smoking Gun never put them up.

    I thought it was pretty cool of her to go back into her own life experience of being in Hollyweird at that time, in the middle of what was going on at that time, and made an exhibit out of it. I don’t see anything actually damaging to anyone’s reputation or any sort of violence in the pics, even though Laura and others can attest shows at that time could be VERY violent and rowdy on stage, off stage, out in the streets.. but more often, fun. The artist who did the tattoos did a great job.

    GNR did cultivate a look that stood out, lived a notorious lifestyle, brought the elements of the look and sound of LA into one room (although Janes Addiction had more of the funk and metal going on. They prob. would’ve been fine portrayed in an exhibit!) and the Appetite for Destruction era were our modern day outlaws.


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