It’s the contentious art story of the moment as the first major U.S. museum exhibition on the history of graffiti and street art arrives amidst an ‘is it or isn’t in vandalism debate’: Such chatter we’ll leave to others, for now we’re focusing on the street art of L.A.…
The exhibition covers a breadth of cities and styles from the 1970’s to present day, but it is the focus on the street art of the exhibition’s hometown of Los Angeles that got us talking.
Street art in L.A. really began in the ‘60’s, but the pioneering time for the L.A. scene, and one that can relate more so to the street art of today, was the post Wild Style era of the late '70's and '80's when letters and forms impregnated L.A. from its mother city, New York.
In the late 60’s it was the artist Chaz Bojórquez, who was the first to treat cholo lettering associated with Latino gangs as an art form. Now Bojórquez, 62, calls himself the "the oldest consistently working graffiti artist in the world."
Bojórquez is one of three street art pioneers who illustrate the range of the field. Craig Stecyk, 60, helped shape the graffiti-fuelled, surf-skate aesthetic of Venice and Santa Monica in the 1970s whilst Risk helped bring Wild Style, with its bubbly forms and interlocking letters, from New York to L.A. in the 1980s.
Saber, born in the suburb of Glendale, discovered his passion for art at the early age of 13. After years honing his skills on local walls, Saber joined MSK, and was later inducted into legendary piecing crew AWR.
Saber is also known for his surreal landscapes and has also created groundbreaking metal and wood sculptures of abstract letterforms and painstakingly rendered hyper-realistic canvases.
Revok (AKA Jason Williams) has been tagging under his current name since 1991, when he was 14. His ‘Los Awesome’ series, created on billboards around the city, was the result of a collaboration called ‘The Movement’ with graffiti writers Rime and Augor.
‘The Movement’s’ aim was to celebrate L.A. by creating graffiti that eschewed aggressive, territorial, messages typically associated with gangs in the city.
L.A. is of course an international centre for street art, hence the exhibition. Over the past 30 years countless internationally renowned artists from the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Banksy, Martha Cooper, Shepard Fairey, Futura, Phil Frost, Keith Haring, Swoon and the infamous Mr Brainwash, not to mention the hundreds of other street artists that have all exhibited there - some legitimately and some not so legitimately, but that’s the beauty of it.