Tag Archives: dtla

PINKISH: PORTRAIT OF ROBED ELEPHANT-HUMAN STREET ART BEFUDDLES PASSERSBY

Street art often provides many unanswered questions, not only about the artwork itself, but also who created it. There’s seldom clear authorship for most street art and usually no contextual information about the artwork or artist in the way there is for in a museum of gallery. That can make it difficult to attribute the artist or read the artwork, though that’s also part of the allure of street art.

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CONFUSION: “ART-NOT-ART” STREET ART

A funny thing about “art.” Sometimes the happiest of aesthetic accidents happen as a consequence of totally non-artistic impulses.

Take as prima facie example the case of the roller-shutter pictured above. It’s on a warehouse-factory building in the rapidly gentrifying Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood dubbed the Arts District. It’s a beautiful building, a grand structure standing as testament to L.A.’s glorious former industrial past.

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CULT OF KAWAII: WHEN STREET ART “GETS CUTE” WE ALL SUFFER

 

Look, savvy reader! Look at the photo above!

See that tiny wheat-pasted street artwork of a poodle-like canine waltzing down the pavement seeming to give zero fucks but in a totally oblivious, entitled way?

Ahhhhh …. cuuuuuuuuute, right?!?!? 

Look again, look carefully. Is that a dollop of poop nonchalantly emanating from the butt of this kawaii canine? It is! It must be! Wow, this cartoon pup really does give zero fucks.

Ahhhhh …. cuuuuuuuuute, right?

Well, we’re not buying it. This is just a little too cute (or as Japanese high-school girls love to squeal: Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii”). And frankly this is even a little too cute for the Los Angeles Arts District where this pic was snapped.

Sure, the poop is a touch of insouciance and whimsy we can appreciate here at Global Graphica. Clearly this artwork was something not executed without thought. (Notice how that dollop of poop has its own shadow!!!!)

And we like how the artwork was posted at the eye level of a small rodent. (The artwork actually is the size of a small rodent — less than a foot long. It shows that the artist is, as corporate HR specialists like to say, “detail oriented.”

That aside, this kind of cuteness is too easy and a kind of artistic crutch. We want our street art to be bolder, grittier, heavier, more epic, aesthetically nuanced and more serious about message.

What is this artwork trying to say? Pick up your dog’s shit? That everybody has to poop, even the most beautiful and haughty little bitches? (For the record, the word “bitches” is used here in the scientific sense to mean “gender-female dog,” and not used in the often misogynistic hip-hop sense).

With this kind of cute, we suffer. You, us, everybody — even the artist — suffers. Yes, the struggle is real.

 

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE: STENCIL STREET ART ATTEMPTS WRY SOCIAL COMMENTARY ON SMARTPHONE USE

 

We were were recently walking down the street in the Arts District near Downtown Los Angeles (a.k.a., DTLA).

We were upbeat, bright-eyed, walking with a spring in our step, as one might say, practically skipping along the pavement and doing this all while scrolling through the email inbox on our battered iPhone, firmly en-gripped in our right hand. (BTW, we just made up that word “en-gripped,” which we think perfectly captures the idea of holding a phone while walking.)

That’s when we almost didn’t notice the nearly life-size stenciled silhouette of a lean, badly-postured man on the sidewalk ahead of us. See pic above.

This figure was staring down at his smartphone (sure, probably an iPhone, but, you never know, it could be a Droid — you’d be surprised sometimes that there are actually some non-iPhone smartphone users out there — Yes, even in the Arts District! Amazing, we know).

He seemed so engaged with his smartphone that he was missing out on all the stuff going on around him on the street. He was missing out on life, on living, and stuff that didn’t involve touch-screens and apps icons and likes and getting things done and working remotely and sending important work-related messages and viewing urgent texts about deadlines and budgets.

He was missing out on important non-important stuff, like missing out on all the awesome street art all around.

We took a pic of this.

Then we went back to scrolling through the email inbox on our battered iPhone and went on our merry way.

KNOWLEDGE: STREET ART EXPLAINS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FINANCE AND LOVE

Art can do many things. It can provoke, teach, offend, inform, comfort, inspire, scare, stimulate and bond us.

Street art, can possibly do even more things. Its public nature — in “the streets” —  gives it more reach and exposure to a much larger, broader audience than most of the art confined to the indoors of a museum or gallery. That said, most of the audience exposed to street art do not care for street art.

That public may not “get it” nor like it nor think of it as “art,” but as they drive by or walk by street art, they cannot unsee it (at least not without some kind of head-trauma induced amnesia or decades of expensive professional psychological counseling).

In this way, street art is like a billboard, or what people in the ad agency business called “OOH” for “out of home” advertising.

So any explicit message contained in the street artwork has as much power or influence as a billboard, which itself may be inconsequential or great depending on the content, images and message. In any case, while that influence can be hard to precisely measure, nobody is in doubt, however, about its visibility and potential.

Occasionally street art, or art in general, imparts some gem of wisdom and understanding in the viewer. Often, depending on the media, it’s nuanced, subject to interpretation and open to speculation. But sometimes it’s clearly stated, expressed using the power and clarity of the written word, relying more on text than image.

No money, No honey” (our comma) is the message in the stencil street art pictured here on a stretch of pavement in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The stenciled art provides a pithy, hyper-concise breakdown of the relationship between purchase power and sex (preferably of the hot kind).

The statement is a generally understood observation, and an unethical and shameful popular notion, that has existed since the beginning of time. To put it another way, it’s saying there’s a relationship between money and love, or the facsimile of love.

Is there a real-world example that might illustrate this relationship? Why, yes, there is, savvy reader! Yes, there is!

Take the case of Melania and Donald Trump. Melania here is the “honey” in the equation. The Donald has the “money.” If Donald does not have the money, it’s quite likely he wouldn’t have the “honey” (that’s Melania — c’mon folks follow along!). Because, really … Melania would give up the honey for this without the money?

Under any circumstances, the image of Melania giving up the honey for Donald Money is something we can’t unsee. It’s like street art. Or a billboard. Or street art ON a billboard. A really frightening billboard. 

Mysterious: Why “Judith” is Painted on an LA Warehouse Door

The “Judith” in question here is artist Judith Bernstein. The roller shutter with her name painted on it in a rough handwritten style is at the influential art gallery the Box in the Art District of Los Angeles, where Bernstein has had many exhibitions.

Here Comes the Neigborhood: Mural of Basquiat Ups Real Estate Values in Hip Gentrifying Hood

There’s a pattern of tell-tale signs that indicate that a once-undesireable neighborhood is undergoing gentrification. One of these signs is the changing nature of street art, and, more tellingly, the arrival of public art.

Although street art is kind of constant throughout the gentrification process, it’s usually in abundance in the neighborhood pre-gentrification and continues to pop up more frequently and blossom as the process unfolds. What’s different over time is the type of street art and its content and how it changes as the neighborhood gentrifies.

As the process plays out and rents and condos become more expensive, the street art becomes “neater,” bigger, less controversial, broader in appeal, and more referential of the established traditional post-modern and contemporary art canon.

More importantly, the street art you see starts to be commissioned rather than illicit. Galleries pop up. Art “events” appear. There’s public art. There are bigger and bigger murals. The “street art” at this stage is increasingly really officially developer-approved mural work by established street art figures and established non-street artists instead of “guerilla” artworks painted in the dark of night. 

The mural pictured here in the Los Angeles Arts District depicting the late, great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat seems to fall somewhere in between the official and unofficial, a signpost somewhere in the middle of the gentrification-process spectrum. In and of itself, it is not significantly remarkable. In the context of the streets, it’s awesome, it’s cool, and will add to the area’s cachet for would be home buyers and investors who love it and want to tap into the “cool” of the Arts District.

The artwork is adding value. Rents will go up — ARE going up — and fast!  (In fact, since you started reading this, the average monthly listing price on a 400 square-foot studio apartment in the area has probably increased by $2,416.39, to the penny.)

The painting is by the very talented artist Alex Ali Gonzalez, and it’s self-referential for the art world and also a kind of visual, symbolic creative cue, an homage to an important beloved artist and what that artist represents — Basquiat started out by creating graffiti and street art in what at the time were the derelict streets of downtown Manhattan, an area of New York City that is now completely gentrified and unaffordable for most people.

Basquiat symbolizes something for both the struggling young artist being priced out of the Arts District and to the property developer turning a textile warehouse or widget factory into multi-million dollar condos affordable by only the wealthy, who it has been observed are often people who are not professionally creative and often lack imagination in a way that is inversely proportional to their wealth.

Neighborhoods pass through phases of gentrification, from pre- and “pioneer” phases through to “early hipster,” “late hipster” and “second,” “third,” “fourth” waves, etc., and finally “establishment” phase. (You’ll know the last phase because hipsters are no longer moving to the neighborhood and there’s at least one condo with its own private elevator.)

The Arts District of Los Angeles, which is really the industrial area that’s psychologically an extension of Downtown LA (DTLA) is not at the establishment phase of gentrification, but it’s very close, or rather at least pockets of it are really close. Other areas, not so much. It’s a vast area that could easily be divided up in to two or three distinct neighborhoods.

But there’s more and more large-to-epic scale commissioned street art. Look for more images of the Basquiats and Warhols and others of the artworld Pantheon in the future and fewer “Kook Streets” and “Wrdsmths” and “Banksys” (although, given the monetary and cultural value of a Banksy artwork at this point, it would actually be a welcome addition even on an expensive DTLA condo, maybe it would be painted inside that private elevator.)