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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.”


Great Art Off the Beaten Path

There is some great art that you need to see even if it means you have to travel far to see it.

10 Extraordinary Artworks You Need to Travel to the Edge of the World to See

New York. London. Paris. Public art tends to cluster in major cities around the world, taking center stage in downtown districts and in major institutions. But a lot of truly incredible art exists on the fringes, and some of it is even made by major artists. For a truly unique experience, you’ve got look off the beaten path, away from museums and towards the oceanfronts, mountains, and remote highways of the world. You never know what could astound you.

From the northern tip of Norway to the wilderness of the Namib Desert, we rounded up 10 major works of public art that are hiding in plain sight in some of the most remote corners of the world.

My Favorite - and I have seen it in person - Salvation Mountain

Leonard Knight

Salvation Mountain (1984–2011)

Leonard Knight, <i>Salvation Mountain</i> (1984–2011). Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Corbis/Getty Images.

Leonard Knight, Salvation Mountain (1984–2011). Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Corbis/Getty Images.

WHAT: Leonard Knight (1931–2014) never called himself an artist, but he created an epic piece of multicolored land/folk art in the southern Californian desert. Called Salvation Mountain, it overlooks the Salton Sea, surrounded by vehicles he customized in the same visionary style. Every surface preaches Knight’s gospel of love and faith in Jesus in primary colors. When the first “mountain” he made collapsed, Knight decided it was God’s will, and he started all over again—only on a bigger scale. He did, however, abandon the idea of having a hot air balloon float above the site, as it proved impractical in the harsh desert climate.  


WHERE: Salvation Mountain is next to Slab City, and a short drive from Bombay Beach, which boasts its own biennial and thriving art community. All are around a three-hour drive southwest from Los Angeles, and within easy reach of the Coachella Valley.

FUN FACT: The first Salvation Mountain, which Knight began in 1984, was made with unstable building methods and collapsed. So Knight changed locations and started again.




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.

Sicanje, an Ancient Balkan Tattoo Tradition, Draws a New Generation

Bosian tattoosThis from Atlas Obscura -

For millennia, women adorned their daughters, and sometimes sons, with symbols of belonging and protection. Then the practice vanished—until now.

For millennia, women in what is now Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina performed sicanje—the word means, literally, “to prick”—on their daughters. Using needles and a mixture of soot, spit, honey, and breast milk, the tattooing tradition covered the hands, chest, and sometimes forehead with deeply symbolic patterns.

In the 1920s, anthropologist Edith Durham wrote that sicanje had passed from one generation of women to the next for nearly 4,000 years. In the mid-20th century however, it vanished. Now, a new generation of Balkan women—and men—is reviving the tradition as part of a larger trend to reclaim and celebrate their heritage.

“Unfortunately we don’t have any primary sources [about the tradition’s origins]. We only have the Greeks talking about them as their opponents,” says Marija Maracic, coauthor of The Sicanje Project, an oral and visual history of the tradition. In written histories and on vases and other artwork, ancient Greeks depicted Balkan people with tattoos, and archaeologists working in the region have discovered bronze tattooing needles in 3,000-year-old graves. Some of the ancient designs appear universal, such as the kolo circle, representing family and unity; it shares a name with a traditional dance still performed at weddings and family reunions. Other tattoos, such as a particular combination of motifs, appear to signify a specific village or tribe.

In fact, sicanje symbolized identity but also protection, blessing, and beauty for centuries. As the Balkans became Christianized in the ninth century, the pagan tradition of sicanje evolved to incorporate Catholicism. For example, the kriz, a pagan symbol of the four cardinal directions, became a stylized Christian cross. And while women had traditionally marked their adolescent daughters on the vernal equinox as a rite of passage, they began doing it on the feast day of St. Joseph, which falls close to the arrival of spring.

In the 15th century, sicanje transformed again, this time into an act of resistance. Under Ottoman rule, Christian Balkan families were levied devshirme, sometimes called the blood tax. Boys as young as eight were taken to Istanbul in a system designed to surround the emperor with loyal foreign servants, limiting the power of the Turkish elite. Devshirme were often well educated, and served as high-ranking soldiers and bureaucrats, but they were still far from home.

During this period, Catholic Balkan mothers began tattooing boys as well as girls, marking them prominently with symbols of protection and belonging. And if devshirme ever returned to their village as an adult, their sicanje would identify them, no matter how many years had passed.

As the Ottoman empire waned, sicanje continued on as a mark of beauty and religious and tribal belonging. The tattoos remained most common on women, but some men also carried the marks. In the mid-20th century, however, under the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the tradition of sicanje began to fade. Maracic says modernization, urbanization, and other trends changed attitudes about old customs. Women started to hide their marks, and their daughters declined to receive them. By the 1960s, sicanje lived on only in fading marks on grandmothers’ hands.

In the 21st century, a new generation of historians and artists are rediscovering the tradition. Maracic sees the growing global acceptance and interest in tattoos as a major factor in sicanje’s revival. Popularizing the nearly-lost art is also a way for people to celebrate their heritage and identity in a post-Yugoslavia world.


The Best Street Art in Athens, Greece

One of the oldest cities in the world, full of history and the cradle of democracy and culture.

This is Athens. The ancient’s ‘glorious city’. And at the same time, a contemporary city that assimilates cultural trends and adapts them to its own character. It goes without saying that the modern urban religion of graffiti and street art is part of this: tags, throw-ups, wild style graffiti, political activist stencils, stickers, paste-ups and public art murals created for festivals and other projects. So if you love art and street culture, you’ll love discovering this lesser-known side of Athens.

Every neighborhood has a different story to tell.

 Keramikos & Gazi  Exarhia
 Metaxourgio  Piraeus
 Omonia  Rentis
 Psirri  The School of Fine Arts
 Monastiraki  The Polytechnic campus

Street Art in Support of Ukraine

From the Huffington Post -

The Stunning And Heartbreaking Street Art Painted In Solidarity With Ukraine

Ukraine street art-1Walls around the world are being transformed into tributes to Ukraine amid Russia's invasion.

Street artists around the world are spraying in solidarity with Ukraine.

Many artists have painted poignant pieces highlighting Ukrainians’ struggles amid the Russian invasion, while others call out Russian President Vladimir Putin over the globally condemned attack.

“It was the least I could do apart from sending financial support,” the artist known as WOSKerski, who painted the tribute below in London, told HuffPost.

“As an artist, I have a voice that can influence people and a moral obligation to act against injustice and support people who need it,” WOSKerski said. “I am aware that the online support is probably meaningless, but I hope that perhaps it did help someone.”

Jenks, a street artist in Llanelli, Wales, who acknowledged that Ukrainians likely “never have heard of” his hometown, said he painted his “Pray for Ukraine” piece below “in the hope that if they saw the image painted thousands of miles away, they would not feel isolated and know people are on their side during this terrible time for them.”

Have you seen some similar street art? Or can you help us further identify the artists or locations of the pieces we have in the list? Email your images and information to [email protected] or send a direct message via Instagram.

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.

India's Beautiful and Amazing Truck Art

I have seen these fabulous trucks myself while traveling in India in 2013. Here are some of my photos IMG_2030 IMG_2030


HyperAllergic's recent post on these trucks gave me added insight into why. Here is a short excerpt and you can read the full article here.

In India, trucks play a pivotal role in transporting heavy-duty goods, journeying for endless kilometers across the country. Most drivers are on the road for weeks, sometimes months at a stretch, living a nomadic life and often sleeping and eating in their vehicles. Their trucks become their travel companions and their homes, and the drivers go to great lengths to beautify them. They work closely with truck artists, describing the illustrations they would like to see.

“A good artist should have a steady hand and an intuitive understanding of color-pairing,” said Raj Dongre, in Hindi, over the phone. He has been embellishing trucks with his designs for over three decades. Before the country was engulfed by the pandemic, he worked in a truck-building workshop in Nagpur. In the summer heat, wearing scruffy clothes, he would dip his brush in colors of indigo and green, and glide it across the truck’s sturdy body, defining the fine feather wisps of a peacock. His hands moved with adept flourish, while songs from old Bollywood films played on his mobile phone.

A superstitious totem often seen on the bumpers is the nazar battu: the mug of a sharp-toothed demon with matted hair, believed to ward off the evil eye. Graffitied catchphrases like “Horn OK Please” and “Use Dipper at Night” (the latter encourages other drivers to dim their headlights at dusk) are now an inextricable part of the truck nomenclature. 

To preserve and promote the country’s ephemeral art tradition, Bawa launched All India Permit (AIP) in 2018, an art project which collaborates with local truck artists. AIP supplies them with Cold Rolled steel sheets on which they paint their vibrant creations. In turn, these pieces become one-of-a-kind collectors’ items, available for sale. A sizable portion of the proceeds goes to the artists, providing them with financial sustenance, particularly during the ongoing quarantine period. AIP’s online platform showcases the artworks, while educating visitors of the art form’s cultural relevance.

“Unfortunately, I think this might be the last generation of truck artists,” speculated Bawa. “Many want their children to work in air-conditioned offices, not on rough highways. Also, there is [financial] uncertainty in this field.” While both Ahmad and Dongre don’t want their kids to inherit their profession, they believe that truck art will never peter out. “Otherwise,” Dongre mused, “the Indian highways will be gloomy and bare forever.” 


Lady Pink Creates Memorials for Street Artists

Lady pink‘It’s About Time’: Street Art Trailblazer Lady Pink on Why She’s Painting Memorials to the Unsung Legends of Graffiti

The show at the Museum of Graffiti honors the likes of KEL139, Caine One, Crash, and Erni Vales.

As soon as Lady Pink can get a vaccine, she’s headed down to Miami. The legendary street artist’s solo show—only her second in the last decade—opened on Friday at Miami’s Museum of Graffiti, but she could only attend virtually.

One of the biggest names in street art history, Lady Pink began tagging with graffiti artists including Seen TC5 as a high school freshman in 1979, later co-starring in Charlie Ahearn’s hip-hop film Wild Style. Her work quickly crossed over to the gallery world when she was featured in the first major graffiti art show at New York’s Fashion Moda in 1980.

But despite her regular inclusion in blockbuster graffiti group shows such as “Beyond the Streets,” Lady Pink’s only solo museum show to date has been an offsite exhibition, “Respectfully Yours,” at the Queens Museum in 2015.

Enter the Museum of Graffiti, which opened in December 2019 to provide a permanent showcase for an often-ephemeral art form.

A hybrid museum-gallery model, the for-profit institution has a permanent exhibition showcasing the evolution of graffiti art over the last 50 years, but also stages temporary shows where the work is for sale as a way of funding the operation.

Everything is for sale in the show, except for one canvas consigned to Jeffrey Deitch for an exhibition he is curating next year. Ket hopes to attract institutional buyers for her two new bodies of work: large-scale paintings with feminist themes, and a deeply personal portrait series dedicated to her friends in the graffiti community, including Dondi White, Crash, Lee Quiñones, Daze, and Caine One.