CITIZEN X -vs- WRDSMTH
Are Street Art’s lines blurred when artistic license evokes plagerism?
I sat down with the founder of CITIZEN X art group Terrence Sanders at Café Reggio to discuss his opinions and views on street artist WRDSMTH. Mr. Sanders has recently made public his accusations that WRDSMTH has not been truthful with his sentiment inspired street campaign.
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: You’ve been known for your work as Citizen X for many years. When did it first come to your attention that there was an artist calling himself WRDSMTH?
TERRENCE SANDERS: I received a text from a colleague in Miami asking me if WRDSMTH is a member of CITIZEN X. I responded no and then Googled his name. WTF! I was sickened that this so-called ‘artist’ a/k/a poser had stolen our entire street campaign, process and practice!
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: Well, what happened? You were creating your work out in the open using the street as your canvas and Citizen X had been written about and published. When did WRDSMTH begin showing his work?
TERRENCE SANDERS: CITIZEN X launched in LA in 2011-2012 with happenings, street performances, murals, mailers, stencils, t-shirts, and video projections in complete anonymity. WRDSMTH surfaced about a year or 2 later in 2013-2014. Unlike WRDSMTH we never placed our name or Instagram address on any of our work. We let the work speak for itself.
We decided to take a 2-3 year hiatus after a very meaningful campaign in 2013 to concentrate on our personal art careers. In that 2-3-year span this amoral con artist former advertising copy editor decided he would reinvent himself stealing our concept and sweat equity without our permission!
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: So you are convinced he stole your ideas and the ideas of other artists? Is this a case of Exit Through the Giftshop again, in your mind? A wannabe artist marketing themselves on the backs of what others artists have been doing?
TERRENCE SANDERS: WRDSMTH is not an artist he's an imitation! He's an ad man who made a career out of gimmick and one-liners with no substance, struggle and or conviction. A dumbed downed watered down version of the 'real' men and women who are the true visionaries like Banksy, JR, Jenny Holzer, Keith Haring, Guerrilla Girls, Barbara Kruger, Swoon, Cost & Revs, Basquiat, and Shepard Fairey to name a few.
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: You mention though a number of artists who have had very successful careers, in fact are art stars with gallery representations, and have made significant money. In your case, you have been pretty underground. So your intention as Citizen X was more of a social intervention, and not for market recognition. So you feel he has prostituted what you were doing in some fashion by literally capitalizing on it? What would you say to WRDSMTH if he were standing here?
TERRENCE SANDERS: How dare you disrespect our collective contributions to society and the art community with your unethical charade. WRDSMTH was under the impression that street art has no rules and he could borrow and steal whatever he wanted with no consequences! This is the furthest misconception from the truth.
I grew up on the LES of NYC in the 80's and witnessed first hand the birth of graffiti, break dancing and hip-hop but there was an invisible line you didn't cross. You never stole from another artist period. What that artist created was his copyright his genius. If you did steal you were ridiculed by the community not to mention you and your work were no longer safe.
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: Have you ever met this guy? I personally don’t know him or haven’t followed his work. I assume it’s a man, right?
TERRENCE SANDERS: Yes I believe he’s a man-child. I contacted the infamous WRDSMTH via facebook informing him that he has been found out and we know he purposely and intentionally stole our work and what does he have to say in his defense. To date no response from the coward but what did I expect from someone who is playing make believe artist. To make matters more infuriating he's picking up mainstream traction and taking credit for our movement! Gallerists, bloggers and journalists do your JOB and dig deeper go beneath the surface and the obvious. If you're not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem.
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: So what do you want to have happen? You are telling everyone he’s a fraud, but you aren’t the first person to do street art. But his work does look a hell of a lot like yours and a few others, and the words are awfully close. Do you want an apology or recognition that your work is the authentic source and his is plagiarized?
TERRENCE SANDERS: You've been warned to cease and desist! You are a fame junkie only in it for the celebrity. Your cliche sentiments, selfies, posing, merchandising, adding a typewriter to disguise your thievery and above all thinking you're clever and above reproach will be your means to an end. WRDSMTH crossed the line!
The artist job is to redefine the medium. If he or she can do that then they have made a valid contribution to the landscape of contemporary art. WRDSMTH should give up being a ‘street artist’ and start writing ‘Hallmark’ cards in my opinion. It would be a better fit and he’ll make more money.
CLAYTON CAMPBELL: Thank you my friend and see you back in LA.
TERRENCE SANDERS: No thank you for listening and allowing me to vent. I’m not naïve I know artist steal but not from me. I’m not a good victim. WRDSMITH makes me ashamed to be an artist.
No man was ever great by imitation.
- Samuel Johnson
Lives and Works in Los Angeles
Lives and Works in Los Angeles