Street art tattoos itself on the walls and hearts of the LA community as the modern art form of our generation.
C. Amaris Felton | Copy Editor
Art is a form of expression and the mediums are endless. Dancers create it through movement, writers create it through words and street artists create it through lively illustrations on buildings.
Los Angeles street art has grown into an art movement. While all art is a reflection of an artist’s inner being, street art is a public display of craftsmanship. It can range anywhere from street installations to murals. Street art has become a well-known addition to the city.
In Anna Almendrala’s Huffington Post article, “Los Angeles Street Art,” Erich Redson, editor of the LA Taco blog, said, “The street art scene in Los Angeles is probably the most vibrant in the world. Tourists from other countries are already coming to LA specifically to see our street art, and as this art form grows in popularity this will only increase.”
Street art in LA has not only gained the interest of its inhabitants, but has also gained the interest of those who reside in other nations. “You will learn more about LA by driving around and looking at free, legal and illegal art than you will by opening the newspaper,” Almendrala wrote.
Street art is characterized by vibrant colors and cartoonish figures that display a picturesque idea of the city’s being. If LA is a body, street art is the heart.
A drive around the city is not the only way tourists can view LA’s finest street art. The LAB ART Gallery of Los Angeles is the largest gallery in the nation dedicated to street art. It spans 6,500 square feet and will celebrate its second year anniversary on May 13, 2013.
“My brother [Iskander Lemseffer] and I noticed that there was no single home for street art and we wanted to create that,” said Rachel Joelson, co-owner of LAB ART Gallery.
According to Joelson, the gallery presents around four new openings each week. Artists submit their work to the gallery via email, then Joelson and her brother review it. The gallery features approximately 300 works by over 30 artists.
“I think it [street art] was a progression that had to happen and people had to start taking notice [of] it because it was everywhere. It’s kind of been just a natural progression,” said Joelson. “I’m not really shocked by it, I kind of expected it.”
The Museum of Contemporary Art’s series “Art in the Streets” is another way to experience street art. The series premiered on MOCAtv on Oct. 18 and airs every Thursday. According to the museum’s blog The Curve, “This series also explores the classic films that show historical moments in street art and graffiti by directors and artists like Henry Chalfant and Craig R. Stecyk III from MOCA’s ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibition.”
The city welcomes street art in the form of murals if the art fits within LA’s regulations. Work must adhere to certain guidelines in order for a mural to “go up.” According to Paul Racs, director of the Office of Community Beautification in LA, if a street artist wishes to display his or her art, the artist must acquire a cultural affairs permit.
“They [street artists] would have to have a design laid out so that the city could look at [it] and determine whether it meets certain community standards,” said Racs.
Although the city has particular standards, Racs also mentioned that in the past various graffiti artists were allowed to display their work with a permit. However their art had to be in accordance with residents’ desires.
“A lot of it [street art] does depend on the community, but really, from our perspective, what we want to stay away from is a lot of the graffiti style work — a lot of the spray paint can art…some people like it and a lot of people don’t,” said Racs. “So, obviously, if the city is going to allow something to go up, we don’t want to have half the people that live in that neighborhood complaining about it.”
Yet, street art is continually becoming more recognized as a legitimate art form. In Jori Finkel’s LA Times article, “L.A.’s Street Art Pioneers Paint a Colorful History,” one of MOCA’s Art in the Streets exhibition curators, Aaron Rose, said street art is an established art movement. “Just [six] years ago, street art was an underground thing, very renegade,” Rose admitted to the LA Times.
Part of the reason street art was merely an underground trend was because of its association with graffiti. Some graffiti is often associated with vandalism, which has a negative connotation. But now, graffiti and street art are often separated.
As LA embraces the prominence of street art, more and more viewers can’t ignore the significance of such a movement.
Street artists Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Mear One have become the urban Picassos, Warhols and van Goghs known for their specific art styles and intriguing canvases. Aspiring artists can utilize the free wall space along Venice Beach to display their own art.