Updated: Oct 11, 2019
I had the opportunity to swoop in on the tail end of Roger Gastmans touring Beyond the Streets exhibition which debuted in Chinatown Los Angeles and ran from May 6th – Aug 26th with a vast array of multi-media immersive exhibits showcasing artwork created by 100+ artists on display in a 40,000 square foot warehouse.
One of the first things that caught my eye besides all the throw-ups, tag's and sticker bombs around the area was The Lion’s Den handball wall mural recreation by legendary New York subway graffiti artist George Lee Quiñones. Lee originally created this piece in 1980 at the Corlears Junior High School 56 in New York City. Nothing like the 80's!
Adjacent to Lee's mural was a dope installation by Portuguese street artist Alexandre Manuel Dias Farto, AKA VHILS. I dig his work because of the spatial consciousness involved with his bas-relief carving technique, his work is aesthetically pleasing and ideologically provocative on so many levels, he truly is an "urban archaeologist".
Speaking of an urban archaeologist, mixed media artist Caledonia Curry, aka SWOON had some sick work in the show. I absolutely love the marriage between the urban landscape and her street pastes which demonstrates a connection between people and their environment.
As I made my way through the warehouse maze I began to experience graffiti nostalgia with work by artists like Chris Daze Ellis, John CRASH Matos, Sandra Fabara AKA Lady Pink, Chaz Bojorquez and beyond.
Daze began painting New York subways back in the mid 70's, he was 14 when he did his first subway car, and between him and Crash the duo painted “hundreds” of subway cars back in the day.
These are some of the legends that played a prominent role in bringing consciously driven art to the entire world and to see their work decades later is a testament to the relevancy, power, and endurance of graffiti.
Lady Pink had some nice joints in the show, The Death of Graffiti which was a reproduction of a 1982 acrylic on canvas housed in the New York City museum, my favorite was TC5 Teamwork, 2018.
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One of the illest sections of the show were the James Prigoff, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Martha Cooper photography exhibits. I absolutely love their work because for me it is the exemplification of superlative photojournalism.
James Prigoff (90 years old) has traveled the world amassing the most comprehensive mural and graffiti documentation by an individual, his personal archive contains 80,000 slides.
Included in the show was a series of images taken in the early 80's of storefront graffiti murals. It's photojournalism like this that not only captures and preserves the essence of street entrepreneurialism but the spatial consciousness of the graffiti artist and his environment.
The Gordon Matta-Clark exhibit contained a series of C-print images from the 1000 plus photographs he took throughout New York City Boroughs during the early 1970's that chronicle early tags and throw ups.
The piece de la resistance for me was the wall of archival pigment prints of original joints Martha Cooper snapped back in the early 70's & the 80's. These images ignited memories of Wild Style, Style Wars and Beatstreet, there were nostalgically evocative photographs of legends like OG Brooklyn graffiti artist DONDI sitting in a room with fellow writers back in 1979, DONDI painting between cars in the yard back in east New York Brooklyn 1980, one of my all time favorites is a shot of Lil' Crazy Legs in Riverside Park, New York 1983 for the Wild Style shoot. I love this image so much I had to get one of the show posters for my studio.
Martha Cooper's photography not only captured the spirit of the New York City graffiti culture, it has immortalized those behind perhaps the greatest art movement to ever exist.
Another installation I absolutely loved was the G scale train installation by American Graffiti Writer Tim Conlon. These miniature hand painted weathered model trains are sick! Conlon curated a G scale train exhibit in the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s, Art in the Streets 2011.
There were so many gems in the show that I could write a tome on all the "cultural outlaws" who played a major role in making all this possible, but I'm going to close this out with the final experience of the show and that was the exit which led out to a recreation of one of the most iconic, cultural and historically relevant urban spots in skateboarding & graffiti history, the world-renowned Venice Pavilion
This site-specific installation was created in partnership with Adidas Skateboarding and curated by graffiti legend RISK One
The old Pavilion is one of my favorite spots to visit and chronicle the perpetual pieces and throw-ups on the remaining walls. When I'm there I often reminisce on the early 90's living in a van on Bay street in Dogtown as a beach bum teenager surfing Venice beach. Venice has always had a unique vibe and it was nice to see some of that history being reminisced.
I would have liked to see some type of transition from the old risk takers to the new ones, even though there were contemporary artists included in the show I think it would have elevated the experience and provided a gestalt to have a couple of sections with the mind-blowing burners being done by the new generation.
Below is a gallery of original captures of the BTS show Los Angeles 2018
Original Photography and post production by Coma Free.