If Channing Tatum is the poster child for Abercrombie then Israel Hernandez is the poster child for Miami Beach.
Israel was handsome, young, beachy (see above far left), worked in the fashion/model biz, a boarder, an artist and an entrepreneur who was launching a line of skate boards. He was only 18 years old when he was tased and killed by Miami Beach police. He still wore braces.
Miami has been working hard on re-branding its image over the past few years.
It introduced Art Basel Miami and Design Miami to give the city a hipper, cooler, younger image and get away from its drug violence, retiree, Cage aux Folles party image of the nineties. Starchitects have been brought in to build international press-worthy public buildings like the New World Symphony by Frank Gehry, 1111 Lincoln and the PAMM ( Art Museum Miami) by Herzog deMeuron, and several more headline grabbing buildings by Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Richard Meyers are in various stages of construction.
Part of this revamp has been the creation of two different creative districts; the Design District and Wynwood. During Art Basel Miami these are the two “new” areas of Miami where millions are spent on international publicity. Wynwood is the area that is brought to the international travel market for its “world class galleries that represent young local artists.” To illustrate this the city and property owners, inspired by the success of Keith Haring in eighties Soho, “give” abandoned and other buildings over to graffiti artists to use as large and free canvasses to express themselves fully and freely. These buildings look like abandoned warehouses somewhere near Detroit airport before, and a lot more interesting after they have been made over with multicolored spray cans in the hands of aspiring Banksys.
Wynwood as a celebration of local graffiti talent is a must see destination headlines scream all over the world in their travel copy on Miami.
Even in the luxury branded Design District the main investor and developer of the area, Louis Vuitton, brought in graffiti artist Retna to express his art on their facade, which opened with all the champagne and red carpet A-listers that are expected from Miami and this French luxury brand.
Shepard Fairey, he of Obama poster fame, did many walls at Wynwood’s Central block – The Wynwood Walls. When a Banksy mural was stolen from a London neighborhood it predictably showed up, all thousands of pounds of concrete, at a Miami art auction house.
Are you getting my drift?
Miami is touting its graffitied walls like they are the fucking Eiffel Tower of the American south!
Where does that leave young, ambitious Miami artists?
Guess what platform, canvas, form of expression, medium, they use….
Guess who encourages them to do so by GIVING them walls, by rewarding them with money and fame, by honoring art school students with Awards of Excellence and Most Promising?
The City of Miami and its developer buddies!
And guess who did not get the memo….
Their own pumped-up police department!
Lets get back to Israel Hernandez. Beautiful, talented, ambitious, kind, young and a bit naive, willing to please in order to succeed Israel Hernandez. He was trying to be everything we, parents, expect our kids to be. Everything the creative culture tells our kids to be. Including just a little bit reckless. A little bit on the edge. A little bit challenging.
Israel Hernandez tagged an abandoned Mc Donalds on the corner of 71st and Collins. I know it well. Its next to my local ATM machine. It has been graffitied and tagged and vandalized over the past year. He left a small R for his street name Reefa.
The Miami Beach Police caught up with him and tased him. He died soon after.
Our culture needs kids like Israel Hernandez. We need them to remind us what it is to be young. To make a difference. To be noticed. Did we not all at some point stand up to authority and held the mirror in its face?
Come on Miami, look in this mirror now, and take responsibility for the life of this young and promising young man. Miami YOU set the bar. You held up the carrot. You cast the die by glorifying graffiti and its artists. So why keep quiet now, when your own police tases and kills your messenger? The messenger you recruited and sent out there… the messenger you need to send your new cool brand identity out into the world.
Come on Craig Robins, Matti Herrera Bower, Robert Wennet, Goldman Properties, Carlos Gimenez, Jorge Perez, etc. Do the right thing. Speak up, speak out. Get the memo of your plans for Miami’s global marketing out to everyone, including the MBPD. Start an art endowment in Israel’s name…
Do what it takes to recognize Israel as a child of your own….
Footage of protest/rally on Saturday August 10th from 1-5 at 71st & Collins.