IT’S A F-G JOHN LENNON LYRIC!”
New York artist Jamian Juliano-Villani is being accused by another artist of having sticky fingers. Brooklyn’s Scott Teplin sees too much similarity between a small painting by Juliano-Villani, now on view at West Village gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, and a painting of his own.
It all started with a peeling mural on the wall of Brooklyn public school PS130, which Teplin’s kids attend. Quoting John Lennon in block letters above some Miró-like abstract shapes, the mural read, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Teplin repainted the text in 2013 with 3D-modeled letters, some of which are painted to look as though they were made from glass and partly filled with water. (The original mural was painted by the school’s art teacher, Gerry Moorhead, who was once included in a Metro Pictures group show. Teplin left the Miróesque section untouched.)
Juliano-Villani Instagrammed a picture of the mural a few weeks ago, without identifying Teplin. Soon after, she posted an image of a detail of her own painting, Animal Proverb, which shows a busty, sphinx-like creature sitting atop a plinth decorated with the Miró-like iconography, above which are the John Lennon lyrics mentioned above in block lettering half-filled with water in the style of Teplin’s mural. This is where Teplin drew the line, claiming the lettering was lifted from his own work.
“Everything is a reference,” Juliano-Villani told artnet News in a phone interview. “Everything is sourced.” Artist copyright seems like a thing of the past.
“It’s a fucking John Lennon lyric,” she said several times. When we pointed out that Teplin, for his part, is claiming ownership of his lettering, not the lyric, Juliano-Villani repeated, “But it’s a fucking John Lennon lyric.”
The debate came to life last week, when Teplin was tagged in a comment on the mural photo by L.A. artist Russell Etchen, asking if it was Teplin’s. He acknowledged that he had painted the mural and offered a link to a site documenting its creation.
Then began the sniping.
Juliano-Villani shot back, “I guess we should tag john Lennon and give him credit?”
“I was paid nothing,” Teplin retorted. “How much of the $12,000 that Gavin Brown sold your painting for are you planning on giving to PS 130? The PTA could really use it.” (The gallery told artnet News that “that’s the retail price for the painting” but declined to specify whether it sold. Brown also declined to comment.)
“What about the typeface you used in the mural?” Juliano-Villani asked. “Do those designers get credit?”
Teplin asserts in a page on his website that he’s been working on the water-filled lettering since 1999.
THE REST OF THESE TWO ARGUING CAN BE FOUND AT