By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — Gallery walls can't contain this East Village artist.
Angel "LA II" Ortiz, who earned recognition in the early '80s after forging a creative bond with celebrated artist Keith Haring, missed the opening of his new art exhibition last week after getting busted for writing graffiti.
Ortiz, 44, who collaborated with Haring as a teenager, had planned to attend the March 12 debut of his show at the Dorian Grey Gallery on East 9th Street, until police busted him for vandalizing an East Village building the night prior.
"I do what I do," said Ortiz, who met Haring when the pop artist came looking for him, after seeing his tags around the Lower East Side. "I've been dong that since the age of 14."
According to the criminal complaint, Ortiz admitted to police that that he spray-painted one of his tag names, "LA ROC," on a Second Avenue building.
Ortiz said police stopped him when they saw him tagging the building with one of his "advertisements" late Friday, recognizing the street scribe right away.
"I was writing my name, the cops came, and they were like, 'Hey, don't move,'" Ortiz said. "They said, 'I love your artwork.'"
He spent the next 24 hours in jail — getting charged with one count each of making graffiti and fourth-degree criminal mischief, the complaint said — and now he has to perform five days of community service for the offense, he added.
Meanwhile at the gallery, Ortiz missed out on praise from attendees such as musician David Byrne and fellow street artist and Haring contemporary Kenny Scharf, who came to the opening with about 200 others that night, said Dorian Grey owner Christopher Pusey.
"If there was one credible reason for a graffiti writer not to attend, it would be for writing graffiti," he said. "It was almost poetic justice in some twisted way."
Despite the arrest, Ortiz said he planned to lecture to a group of schoolchildren about his art next week — but he remains unrepentant about his outdoor work.
"The streets are my canvases," he said.
Ortiz's exhibition, "LA II: Recent Paintings," runs through April 17 at the Dorian Grey Gallery, 437 E. 9th St.