Despite the celebrity testimonials in the Netflix-produced LA Originals, the stars of the documentary aren’t rappers, ballers or even the subjects themselves -photographer Estevan Oriol and tattoo artist Mister Cartoon (Mark Machado). Los Angeles- the city where these two important purveyors of culture came from and developed their talents is the true wonder, and its influence on each man’s art is intrinsic to their success together and apart. To that end, all the reviews of this new film (which was supposed to premiere at SXSW Film Festival last month) refer to the longtime friend and artist duo as “hip-hop figures,” but they were so, so much more. It’s cool to see Eminem and Snoop (and Kobe) have their say about Cartoon’s ink and Oriol’s photography style, but it’s even cooler to see Oriol’s work examined and explored, as his gritty and real images have always featured parts of and people in L.A. that rarely get captured, much less celebrated. Beyond the lowrider and street art scenes, and beyond famous millionaires, it is the images of the barrio and gang hangs in L.A. that resonate and provide a reflection of real life, which isn’t always glamorous. Cartoon has been featured in many a tattoo doc and he’s an undisputed legend (we interviewed him for this comprehensive look at LA tattoo culture), but for fans of Oriol’s work (such as his iconic “fingers” image), it’s exciting to see him score the long overdue exposure that a platform like Netflix provides. (Read our interview with Oriol about his work from last year here).
(Courtesy Estevan Oriol)