In 1980, photographer Gary Leonard took a photo of Darby Crash, lead singer of short-lived Los Angeles–based punk band The Germs. Crash died of a heroin overdose not long after the photo was taken.
Leonard’s image of Crash holding a skateboard has become iconic thanks to street artist/graphic designer and avid punk-rock fan Shepard Fairey. The artist stylized Leonard’s photo of Crash for a poster. Later, when Leonard and Fairey met in a Los Angeles silkscreen shop, they decided to blow up the image into a mural on the side of a building Leonard owns in Echo Park. They used wheat paste to adhere the image to the building. The night they applied it, local gangs tagged the wall, ruining the mural within 24 hours of its creation. Leonard covered the wall with tin and both the art and graffiti were hidden for the next eight years.
Starting this weekend, Fairey’s mural will reappear on the side of Leonard’s building, this time more permanent, in paint and covered in a protective coating.
Leonard’s building has new tenants — the Silver Lake art-and-design shop Hemingway and Pickett has moved into the corner spot at 1932 Echo Park Ave. Owner Toby Hemingway says that when he heard about the Fairey mural hidden on the side of the building, he asked Leonard about reinstalling the work. Leonard talked with Fairey and they agreed it was time.
Leonard says the neighborhood has changed over the last eight years and that he is less worried about vandalism from gangs. Still, he’s taking precautions to secure the mural on its first night.
You can see the mural along Echo Park Avenue at Duane Street starting this weekend. Or check it out at Hemingway and Pickett’s grand reopening party on Saturday, May 7, from 3 to 6 p.m.