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Inside the Graffiti-Covered L.A. Skyscrapers that Drew Global Attention

This great article in the Washington Post covers what I just read about in an art-related website. I am all for this type of thing and would encourage it on all dormant gentrification projects. I wish I could go to LA and see this masterpiece! Bravo!

Here is the article since it may be behind a paywall. I have a subscription.

It’s been about five years since Actual was a regular on the Los Angeles graffiti scene. He said he got on the “straight and narrow” when his daughter was born. But when graffitists started converging on an abandoned development in the city, he thought: “Am I going to be that guy that just said, ‘Oh yeah, I saw it happen. That was cool’ — or am I going to be that dude that was a part of it?”

The sky-high graffiti covering dozens of floors of the Oceanwide Plaza development in downtown L.A., a $1 billion project that was abandoned in 2019, has captured the world’s attention. It’s created eye candy for Instagram. It’s become fodder for conversations about urban blight and foreign investment. And despite graffiti’s undeniable rise to the mainstream, it’s reignited an old debate over whether it is art or vandalism.

To the graffitists participating and the experts watching, the “bombing” — as it’s called in the graffiti world — is more than a stunt or a crime. In a culture where visibility rules, the painted skyscrapers have become a landmark, literally taking the art form to a higher level. For them, it’s a historic moment.

Actual couldn’t pass it up. On his first attempt to enter the complex, he got caught and ran out. On his second, he saw security chasing a group of graffitists and tried to enter from the other direction. Another guard was waiting. Then, on his third try, he squeezed in through a hole in a fence that was covered by a construction sign. When he got into one of the towers, heart pounding, the real challenge began: “It was a big climb,” said Actual, who, like other graffitists mentioned in this story, spoke on the condition that he be identified by his tag name to discuss the illegal artwork. He wanted to paint higher than others, but by the time he reached the 36th floor, “I couldn’t walk; all my leg muscles were just shot.” So he scoped out a spot and got to work. “It was like a trance,” he said. “You’re so high up that it’s not until you come back down that you deal with the world again.”

The effort wasn’t wasted. Susan Phillips, author of “The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti” and a professor at Pitzer College in California, said in an email that it was “perhaps the most legendary roll call in the history of Los Angeles.” Roger Gastman, a longtime graffiti curator and historian, said there’s been “a boom in street work the last few years unlike anything I have seen since the 1990s,” and the buildings show “that graffiti is bigger than ever.”

The reaction was, of course, not entirely positive. The Central City Association of Los Angeles released a statement saying it was “disturbed by the images of the vandalism” and calling for the city to “address this blighted property before it becomes a further nuisance.” The LAPD said Wednesday that it had arrested four suspects and was investigating “numerous crimes.”

In a social media statement last week, it said that additional security measures would be “implemented immediately” and that the graffiti will be removed. The department did not reply to a request for further information. In California, vandalism is punishable with jail time as well as fines. On Tuesday, Michael Delahaut, who lives across the street, said he was watching police raid the buildings. To the 54-year-old, who has been in the L.A. graffiti scene since the 1980s, the creation outside his window was no nuisance — it was more like waking up and finding a masterpiece had been installed in his living room. “It would’ve taken hundreds of writers, tens of thousands of cans. It’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve been able to witness a lot of graffiti movement moments, but this might be the biggest.” 

The opportunity was created by a “perfect storm” of factors, Delahaut said. Buildings in the luxury complex, put up by Chinese firm Oceanwide Holdings, reached as high as 55 stories before the company put the project on hold in 2019 because of financial troubles, the Los Angeles Times reported. In December, the security company responsible for the property sued the developer, saying it had stopped paying. Oceanwide Holdings did not respond to a request for comment. After the first night that pieces started going up, Delahaut said, he expected security to ramp up. It didn’t. By the next night, “it was clearly a scene,” he said.

Delahaut watched with the fascination of a curator. He admired the typography, kept a record of the artists’ progress — noting that he might need it for a later exhibition — and likened the work to the classic style captured on the cover of Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant’s canonical 1988 book, “Subway Art.” (He also compared it to a smaller project on a building in Miami last year.) As a former graffitist himself, he couldn’t help but think through the logistics: “The process of getting into the building, climbing up the stairs and figuring out how much you got to carry,” Delahaut said. “Graffiti is so much more than the act itself.” Some have looked at the graffiti as a symbol for the state of Los Angeles.

Phillips, the author and professor, said that in a place increasingly molded by private money, the work is a “powerful commentary about who gets to shape what.” Stefano Bloch, a cultural geographer at the University of Arizona who studies graffiti, called it “an exposé on the failure of oversized development,” made “in vibrant colors that force us to look up.”

But the artists are split on their motivations. Aqua, a graffitist and fine artist who worked on the high-rise project, said in an email that for those involved, it was all about location. “It is in the heart of the city with high visibility. What a gem!” For Actual, the work gave new voice to the streets. “The money invested in [the buildings] could have done so much for this city,” he said. Now, he said, the graffiti is a reminder: “That’s every single kid in this city just putting their name down, showing they exist and taking the city back.”

 


Banksy Valentine's Day Mural Revealed in Margate UK

Banksy’s Startling Valentine’s Day Mural Exposes Domestic Violence as a Dark Reality Ignored on the Most Romantic Day of the Year

The anonymous artist's new work appeared overnight in Margate.

As reported in Artnet by Vivienne Chow,

Banksy, Valentine's Day mascara (2023). Credit @banksy.
Banksy, Valentine's Day mascara (2023). Credit @banksy.

Banksy has unveiled a new mural highlighting the fight against domestic violence on the morning of Valentine’s Day, drawing applause from fans around the world who praised the artist for not forgetting the reality of abuse on this supposedly romantic day.

Titled Valentine’s Day mascara, the work appeared overnight on a white brick wall in the British seaside town of Margate, one of the most economically deprived areas of Kent.

 

It depicts a woman dressed as a 1950s housewife tossing a man into a real abandoned freezer, around which Banksy created the work. The woman in a blue checkered dress, apron and yellow household rubber gloves has a broken tooth and a black eye probably caused by a punch. She appears to be enacting her revenge on her abuser, while only his legs are visible, sticking out from the end of the freezer.

Banksy, <i>Valentine's Day mascara</i> (2023). Credit @banksy.

Banksy, Valentine’s Day mascara (2023). Credit @banksy.

The work went live on the elusive artist’s Instagram page on Tuesday morning, and garnered more than half a million likes within a couple of hours. Many have left comments praising the artist for drawing attention to the issue.

 

Levels of domestic violence rose during the pandemic lockdowns, and the most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 5 percent of adults aged 16 years and above—6.9 percent women and 3 percent men—experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2022, equating to 2.4 million adults.

“Sheeeessssh but that’s some people’s reality,” one user wrote on Instagram. “Fighting violence used against women. Even on Valentine’s Day. Always!” wrote another user.

Another speculated if there were other hidden messages behind the work. “Anyone else notice the Ukrainian colors? I think that’s the message,” another user pointed out.

One user guessed if Banksy was female. Another shared their horrible accounts of domestic violence and abuse their family experienced. “Anyone who’s experiencing abuse—get help, get out, get free,” the user wrote.

If you or someone you know is being abused, support and help are available.

https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/

https://ncadv.org/get-help


River City Skate Park

River-City-Skatepark-in-WAMany skate parks across the world are filled with wonderful street art. Today I want to give a shout out to River City Skate Park in Seattle Washington.

According to their site, River City SkatePark project has been in the works for 15 years. Initially generated as a business plan by three South Park high school students, this once neglected property has blossomed into an incredibly unique skatepark. There’s nothing else like it in the world!

Designed by our late friend, visionary and founder of Grindline, Mark “Monk” Hubbard, River City is a beautiful concrete structure with four doors in the cardinal directions and one continuous, circular half pipe with lines through the middle. Experienced skaters from around the world visit this park, but many people in the area are unable to enjoy it because of the level of difficulty. We’ve been gathering design ideas from skaters and non-skaters alike to ensure that the new and improved RCSP draws people from many crowds and accommodates a variety of uses. Please help us honor Monk’s vision – to finish building River City SkatePark and help build a healthy community space for people to gather and express themselves.


Fordite

Agate gemstones are known for their amorphous, fluid patterns and colors created by the slow accumulation of sedimentary layers. But in the case of the obscure “gems” known as “motor agate” or “fordite,” instead of sediment and minerals, the layers are made of car paint.

ForditePieces of fordite certainly look as though they could have been fashioned deep within some colorful part of the Earth. Largely, though, fordite was created well above ground in the auto plants of Detroit, Michigan.

Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, American automobiles began being painted via spray techniques that produced large nuggets of excess paint, built up in layer after layer of color. When the cars’ coating would be heated to harden, these overspray deposits would harden right along with them, bringing them to an almost stone-like hardness. A 2013 article about fordite in The New York Times refers to this excess as “enamel slag.”

Once these globs were sufficiently large enough to get in the way of the factory line, they would be broken off the bars and skids they were hanging from, and generally tossed away as waste. “Most of the good stuff is already buried in landfills,” says Cindy Dempsey, an independent jewelry creator and owner of Urban Relic Design, who has been working with motor agate for over 20 years.

Read the full article here.


Painting on Trash to Reveal Nature

Here is a fascinating art project by artist Mariah Reading as reported in Atlas Obscura.

MReading_Flipping Out

Mariah Reading uses unique canvases for her paintings. When the nomadic park ranger and frequent artist-in-residence finds lost objects and trash while adventuring in state and national parks across America, she paints the surrounding landscape on the item, highlighting waste and showcasing the beauty of the protected areas. She has captured the morning light flooding through the gaps between redwood trees at Big Sur on a lost Croc, mimicked the steep cliffs of Channel Islands National Park on a flipper, and—on a forgotten helmet—depicted riotously colorful fall leaves wreathing the banks of a placid lake in Acadia National Park.

When she’s done painting, she photographs her art in front of the landscape that inspired it. Often, it’s hard to tell where reality ends and the painting begins. Reading’s series is a project several years in the making. While she was studying visual arts at Bowdoin College, she took a mold-making class that required students to cook up large vats of concrete and rubber to create molds. The installations they’d in term craft, ended up generating vast amounts of waste: Each brush that touched the rubber needed to be tossed, as the material couldn’t be washed down the drain.


Fordite

ForditeDo you think this looks like agate or some other semi-precious stone? Think again. It is car paint! Here is a fascinating article by

Agate gemstones are known for their amorphous, fluid patterns and colors created by the slow accumulation of sedimentary layers. But in the case of the obscure “gems” known as “motor agate” or “fordite,” instead of sediment and minerals, the layers are made of car paint.

Pieces of fordite certainly look as though they could have been fashioned deep within some colorful part of the Earth. Largely, though, fordite was created well above ground in the auto plants of Detroit, Michigan.

Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, American automobiles began being painted via spray techniques that produced large nuggets of excess paint, built up in layer after layer of color. When the cars’ coating would be heated to harden, these overspray deposits would harden right along with them, bringing them to an almost stone-like hardness. A 2013 article about fordite in The New York Times refers to this excess as “enamel slag.”

Once these globs were sufficiently large enough to get in the way of the factory line, they would be broken off the bars and skids they were hanging from, and generally tossed away as waste. “Most of the good stuff is already buried in landfills,” says Cindy Dempsey, an independent jewelry creator and owner of Urban Relic Design, who has been working with motor agate for over 20 years.


400ml - China's First Graffiti and Street Art Store

In the 798 arts district of Beijing, China, there is a graffiti store called 400ml who, according to a friend, is manned by a bored young hip-hop wannabe. The store is self described as "China's first graffiti and street culture store." 400mlThis is only a fraction of the spray paint cans on offer.

400ml Tue-Sun 9.30am- 6.30pm. 798 art district (50m east of south gate), 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5978 4865) www.abs-crew.com, 400ml.taobao.com 朝阳区酒仙桥路4号798艺术区南门东行50米

By subway: 3km southeast of Wangjing station (Line 15)


Velveteria in Los Angeles

VelvetAs early as the 13th century, Marco Polo reported seeing painted velvet portraits of Hindu deities in India, with religious images continuing to appear on velvet canvases throughout the Middle Ages. Transcending time and modernity throughout 14th-century Kashmir, 16th-century China, and 19th-century England, black velvet paintings finally attained full-on cult status in the 20th century. By that point, Jesus appeared just as frequently as matadors, unicorns, hula girls, and, of course, that other King — Elvis.

Enter: Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin, founders and curators of the Velveteria. An oddball museum if there ever was one, the Velveteria keeps the black velvet craze of the mid-1970s alive and well with plenty of retro kitsch—but also a surprising number of new commissions and modern takes on this practice. As lifelong enthusiasts, the pair has amassed a collection surpassing 3,000 of these paintings.

In 2005, the museum's first iteration opened its doors in Portland, Oregon where it enjoyed years of endearing weirdness before closing up shop and relocating southward to warmer and sunnier climes. The present collection can now be found in the heart of Los Angeles' Chinatown, where more than 400 of the finest specimens from the couple's treasure trove are on display, six days each week. Though each visit feels a bit like a trip down a rabbit hole in its own right, the most otherworldly element of all is the museum's black-light room, where the ghoulish and trippy velvet paintings really seem to come to life.

Read more at Atlas Obscura.


Makeup Artist Transforms Her Face into Famous Artworks

Klimt faceThis from Lost in E Minor --

California-based artist Lexie Lazear transforms her face into works of art with the power of makeup.She was inspired to turn her face into famous paintings, thanks to her love of art. Her intricate designs pay homage to famous painters such as Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh.

“I love art, so I started with pieces that have always spoken to me, and plan to keep going until I’m struck by a new inspiration,” Lazear told Buzzfeed. When she designs her makeup, the artist doesn’t just ‘copy and paste’ the iconic artworks onto her face. Instead, she reinterprets and reimagines them into new, unique looks.  “I think that makeup is an art,” she said.  “Art is expression, and we’re all unique, looking for ways to express that.”

You can visit her website or follow her on Instagram to see more.