At the Jonathan Levine Gallery on West 20th St. at his solo show graffiti artist Shepard Fairey said, ?€?When I confronted James Cooper I said, ?€?I don?€™t know you, you don?€™t know me. I have put together a very time-consuming art show that required an incredible amount of energy and money to produce. I provided free alcohol, free entertainment, it is a free event. Great deejays, you are here to sabotage it. All I can say is that with my street art I know what the consequences are if I get caught and I hope you knew what the consequences might be if you got caught. If the book get thrown at you, I feel a little bad, but not that bad.?€?
The artist continued, “James Cooper just twiddled his thumbs and looked at the floor and would not make eye contact. He was just sitting there and he had not been handcuffed. I was not aware then that he would be charged with arson, I just thought that he would be charged with reckless endangerment. If he had set that thing off with hundreds of people in there and they had started all running out it definitely could have been a dangerous situation.”
I ask if Shepard could see a vandalism-versus-vandalism aspect to his confrontation with James Cooper, because so many people see graffiti as vandalism, Fairey responds, ?€?I have been charged with malicious destruction of public property but I prefer to call it benevolent enhancement of public property. While I would consider what this splasher is doing as just malicious destruction. It is not a statement that has anything to offer. I am used to dealing with forces that are anti-street art. It is just sad that it is from a quasi-intellectual misquided peer. The police are supposed to be dicks, people who have gone to grad schools aren?€™t. With cops vandalizing my art, I don?€™t hold it against them. It is like the lion and the elk, it is in their nature. A really funny time, I got arrested one time in Chinatown where there was a blank billboard and I put one of my works up and they arrested me and then knowing that I would be really bummed if one of my pieces got messed up, the police went and took my extension pole and tried to scrape it off and said, ?€?How do you like that?€™ as they tried to rip off the face. So I guess they look at it that they want to hurt the feelings of the graffiti writer rather than just enforce the law. My relation with them does not get that personal typically but that is just the nature of street art so I know what I am up against with the cops. But when it is a private citizen it makes me think that he is a psycho stalker vigilante type and I think that profile is dangerous.?€?