Man Writes "FUCK" on Building, Calls It "NEOART," Goes to Jail

Aug 3, 2009 at 1:10 pm
click to enlarge Man Writes "FUCK" on Building, Calls It "NEOART," Goes to Jail
Who is David Reeves (a.k.a., ShiniGami)?

The 51-year-old's own Web site portrays him as a toy designer and graffiti artist of international reputation. Some on Cherokee Street view him as more pest than provocateur.

Whatever you believe, there's at least one thing David Reeves definitely is these days: incarcerated.

The guy's been around for a while.
Acquaintances say he owned a couple of record stores in the St. Louis area during the 1980s, plus a pair of recording studios in the early 1990s. Reeves himself claims to have done design work for Hasbro, Mattel, Reebok, Paramount, Universal and Lucas Films (among several others).

The current brouhaha began last March, when Cherokee Street property owner Jason Deem let Chris Sabatino - a local graffiti artist - spray a giant shamrock across the front of one of his buildings. One evening, a red minivan pulled up (Deem happened to be standing there). Reeves got out, and proceeded to spray-paint the words "Not Art" over the shamrock in big white letters. [Full disclosure: Deem is this reporter's landlord.]

When Deem asked him what he was doing, the burly, six-foot-three Reeves replied that he was enhancing the Shamrock. Normally, Reeves explained, he'd charge $5,000 for the job, but in this case, he'd do it for free.

Deem called the police, and once they arrived, a deal was hashed out: the property owner wouldn't press charges as long as Reeves promised to come back the following day and paint over his words.
Reeves left that night, Deem says, but never returned.
Or, at least, not until July 10. On that evening, police called Deem reporting that a man was caught writing the word, "FUCK," on another one of his buildings. When Deem arrived on the scene, he recognized Reeves, and decided to press charges this time. According to Deem, Reeves "went berserk."

Man Writes "FUCK" on Building, Calls It "NEOART," Goes to Jail

At the bond hearing the next day, the judge issued a stay-away order prohibiting Reeves from Cherokee Street.  But sure enough, Reeves showed up at the monthly business association meeting a few days later "looking pretty anxious," remembers Alderman Craig Schmid. Reeves was handing out the flyer shown below.

In a letter to a judge, Schmid would later write that while he himself was no mental health expert, Reeves' behavior at that meeting suggested that the man "may have some real 'problems'" and "could be considered dangerous." (Download letter here.)
After Reeves walked out of the meeting, the police were called. They caught up with Reeves but couldn't detain him, because the stay-away order had been nullified on a technicality.
By this point, Reeves - under the name "ShinGami" - had been sparring with neighborhood folk on for several days.  After being chastised for spray-painting a brick building that someone was trying to rehab, Reeves responded, "I'll remove it, I already got the press I needed."

(Note: Reeves did not remove it. A local graffiti-clean-up group did, however. They used a power-sprayer, which Deem says damaged the tuck-pointing and resulted in repairs costing around $400).
Reeves argued on the Web site that the First and Fourteenth Amendments, along with certain Supreme Court rulings, protected his tags. One commenter responded that Reeves neither understood nor cared about the Constitution. Reeves replied, "LOL, whenever you want to get into constitutional law, let me know. I've read all of the Federalist Papers."
Reeves also boasted having curated a street art show commemorating the 100th anniversary of the New York City Subway, and said he would be participating in a similar show this Fall. "You think there isn't a reason the City of New York had me assemble the best artists for that show?" he wrote. "I need to get back to my NYC show work for November, but this was a good side distraction."

He's called a "turd," "loser" and "self-absorbed narcissist" on the neighborhood site. Sixteen individuals, including Reeves, left comments. Fourteen weighed in against Reeves. One commenter wrote, "Not only are you untalented but you're arrogant and dismissive. That's like the holy triumvirate of butthead."

click to enlarge Man Writes "FUCK" on Building, Calls It "NEOART," Goes to Jail / CC BY-ND 2.0
The drama continued at the second bond hearing on July 27. Reeves showed up over an hour late, without representation. Dale Sweet, who was present on behalf of Gravois Park's neighborhood association, said Reeves seemed to be claiming that a number of ACLU attorneys would represent him, but weren't available on that particular day.
Sweet also recalls Reeves starting to cite a Supreme Court case in his own defense, but Judge Elizabeth Hogan cut him off, informing him (as Sweet paraphrased it), "I'm quite certain the Supreme Court never said you could go around defacing other people's property."  

Reeves was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.  He was still in jail as of this morning on $5,000 bond for second degree property damage. His case has been continued until Aug. 18.