Yes, year-end lists. Not even street art is exempt. But hey, 2011 was a banner year for the Los Angeles street art and graffiti communities, as they enjoyed plenty of worldwide attention.
LA Weekly put together the ten L.A.-related street art and graffiti stories that we think were most remarkable in 2011. Please add your own in the comments below.
Ok, so we didn't promise all the things on the list would be uplifting. Shepard was visiting Denmark on behalf of V1, a notable local Copenhagen gallery that perhaps didn't do their homework in clearing an already controversial place for him to paint. Or maybe they didn't care — it would get media attention. Particularly disturbing was that a few European “anarchists” though it would be fair to beat up and injure an artist to make their point. Love Fairey or hate him, it's never okay to kick the shit out of an artist because of his work. Know history.
Wow. Property Owner and Graf Artist team up to create the piece of the year. An entire house in Santa Monica painted mostly in secret by Risk and Retna in honor of Heal the Bay's coastal cleanup day. Three months of preparation includes a team of contractors, landscapers, most of the neighborhood and even some cops who chipped in for an astounding reveal that lasted a little more than a week. But, of course, not without hassle. Developer/art fan Adam Corlin puts his money (and his house) where his mouth is to benefit his favorite charity. More please. (See number 3)
It was a sad day for art fans in New York and the Brooklyn Museum. In an email sent to participating artists from the museum's director, Arnold Lehman, the East Coast was officially denied the best-attended exhibit in MOCA's history. Not to mention the fact that it featured a heavy contingent of Big Apple talent like Futura, Lee, Basquiat and Ramellzee, known for inventing a generation of the very art movement it celebrated. Do we think the usually risk-taking Brooklyn Museum was bullied out of doing this show? Sure. Does the economy suck for museums dependent on donations and public funds? Yes. Despite some trumped up tagging in the Little Tokyo neighborhood, L.A.'s world didn't end. Expect New York to host an amazing version of the show in the near future. There is money to be made.
Activist/Artist/Frenchman/Photograffuer, JR brings “Wrinkles of the City,” a series of his latest, office park-sized photographs to L.A. On the heels of his unprecedented $100,000 TED prize nomination, Los Angeles became the first U.S. city to host one of the street artist's full-scale projects. Perhaps his other location choices have been more poignant (the favelas of Brazil or the war torn villages of Somalia) but wheat pasting sky high elderly faces with furrowed brows as deep as the L.A. river might start a conversation in this mecca of plastic surgery. Most of the photos are still intact, so check out our exclusive Google map to view. You can still get involved in his TED sanctioned concept: insideoutproject.net. Do it yourself!
What to say about this that hasn't been said already? L.A. County makes an example of one of its most known and talented graffiti artists. He escapes to Detroit, only to represent with a sold out gallery show in the Fairfax District months later. The district attorney prepares a case against him so he's never allowed to paint publicly in L.A. again. Will it stick? (See number 3.)
The Underbelly Project is a concept of Brooklyn street artists Workhorse and PAC. The first installment was in New York in 2010 and was a difficult, covert operation in which 103 of the biggest names in street art and graffiti were invited to a secret, illegal, and abandoned underground subway tunnel to make art over an 18 month period. Only those folks and a couple reporters know where it is, only they've seen it. With art by Swoon, Revok, Ron English and Faile, it's probably awesome. Just recently the Paris edition was completed with 10 artists, including HowNosm, Saber, and Futura, photographed by Martha Cooper. Continuing the tunnel trend, gallerist Steve Lazarides just recently hosted an art show and fancy ticketed dinner in the old Vic tunnels of London he named Minotaur. But maybe Banksy started it all in 2008 with his “Cans Festival,” open to the public at Leake Street station. Does L.A. have a tunnel for this yet? RIP Belmont.
Another amazing feat by L.A.'s own Saber One. As a protest against the city's mural moratorium, he devises a campaign that deluges the skies over City Hall on the lunch hour. The project is supported by Shepard Fairey, Juxtapoz magazine and even Twitter. Crew call-outs “Art is Not a Crime” and “End Art Moratorium” are scrawled amongst the clouds as L.A. looks on from as far as Los Feliz. He might have made a point. And that brings us to…
Might be too good to be true, but is L.A. on its way to once again becoming the mural capital of the world? The strange public art moratorium that started in 2007 may be lifted thanks to public outcry, artist action and a guy named Tanner Blackman. There's a forum on January 10 that could be the deciding factor. Property owners will once again be able to give permission to artists to make art on their buildings with out the promise of prosecution. Artists won't be arrested or fined either.
He was nominated, but then uninvited. Banksy came to L.A., left some art that was mostly stolen and caused a fury on TMZ. The Academy was mostly afraid of what this outlaw graffiti artist would do if he won. Would he wear a monkey mask? Would he streak across the stage naked like that guy in the seventies? After all, he did send Mr. Brainwash to accept his Independent Spirit award. Maybe they should've rethought the whole James Franco/Anne Hathaway thing instead. Snoooozzzzzz.
Jeffery Deitch does the museum show that would not be done. The controversial curator brings artists and art fans from all over the world to converge on the Best Coast for a landmark retrospective on the history of street art and graffiti. Banksy pays for Free Mondays, Invader evades the LAPD, Eine paints the L.A. Weekly. It was a good year.
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