On Saturday January 18, over sixty guests of the Los Angeles Art Show explored the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District for a mural tour, CARTWHEEL’s first event of 2014. Conceived by CARTWHEEL founder Cindy Schwarzstein to compliment the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles‘ (MCLA) LA Art Show exhibition and panel discussion, Will Los Angeles Reclaim Its Title as the “Mural Capital of the World?”, the tour of the Arts District showcased the district’s many murals while revealing the vitality of the neighborhood.
The Arts District is rapidly developing as one of the coolest areas in Los Angeles. Repurposed industrial warehouses and factories hold not only artists’ loft homes and studios, but galleries, boutiques, and creative work spaces. Coffee roasters and bars, specialty cocktail lounges, an organic market, a yoga studio, artisan restaurants, and funky snack spots have sprung up to feed both locals and the many visitors who flock to this colorful and eccentric fifty-two block neighborhood which is home to over seventy murals and is one of the most filmed locations in the world.
The tour began at MCLA’s LA Art Show booth, where MCLA Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams gave a presentation on the history of murals in Los Angeles and explained how the new Los Angeles City mural ordinance will allow artists to create and preserve their work.
After Isabel’s talk and a look at the artwork in the MCLA booth, including Kent Twitchell’s studies for murals and a replica of a mural covered alley, we took a shuttle bus to the Arts District and were given our copies of Arts District Mural Guide & Map, designed and created by CARTWHEEL. The map included sponsors and parters such as Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA) in which Cindy is a board member of, the LA Art Show, MCLA and Linear City Development. It was on the bus,where we discovered only ten of 48 passengers were familiar with the Arts District, even though some were residents of Los Angeles! Excitement was building as we pulled into the parking lot of URBAN RADISH.
At URBAN RADISH, the Arts District’s first organic market, we picked up fresh, made-to-order sandwiches and met up with the rest of the tour group who had provided their own transportation to the Arts District, and were joined by lecturer, and documentarian Steve Grody, author of Graffiti LA. Throughout the tour, Steve provided insight into the differences between graffiti and tagging, as well as the history and background of murals in the district, and their artistic and social importance.
We began the south side of the Arts District walking tour by seeing several definitive murals, including M-City‘s long stencil mural and the 140’ x 45′ Ron English Urban Bigfoot Mural, painted with the assistance of Vyal.
The walking tour continued with crowd favorites, a Zes & Vans the Omega collaboration; work by Anthony Lister; work by the MSK crew, Bloom Klor and Rime; and a mural by Retna, indicative of his old graffiti style work on a wall next to another collaborative mural by RISK, Revok, and Abel.
Steve provided the art history and Cindy informed the group about the street artists murals that were seen while pointing out that the raw urban flavor and warehouse spaces, the Los Angeles River, the railroad tracks, and other spots that had appeared in films, videos, television shows, and commercials; the Arts District hosts as many as 800 films in a year, meaning multiple productions are often shooting with the districts boundaries at any given time. Cindy also told us about the small creative businesses and local artisanal eateries along the way that have been drawn to this part of the Arts District such as The Bread Lounge, Bestia, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and Pizzanista. Pizzanista was founded by legendary professional skateboarder Salman Agah, and uses pizza boxes designed by artist BB Bastidas, whose murals were upcoming in the tour.
In addition to murals, the tour also included south-side gallery visits. At Diana Munoz’s Azygous Arts Gallery, artist Petal had a show hanging. Soze Gallery featured the mural work of El Mac and Augustine Kofie outside the gallery. At CES Contemporary, recently relocated from Laguna Beach, owner Carl Smith gave us a sneak peek of their new space scheduled to open later in the evening.
Tour participants viewed over a dozen more murals before strolling past the Linear City Developments on Industrial Street, which includes the Biscuit Company Lofts and the Toy Factory, and local artisan eateries like Church and State, Pour Haus Wine Bar, Little Bear, and Daily Dose, (that also has a gallery space that CARTWHEEL has worked with for a couple of their event service projects recently). We completed the south end of the tour after seeing some of ROA’s many murals. The next destination would be the north-side walking tour of the Arts District.
As the tour proceeded towards the north side of the Arts District, a detour under the 6th Street Bridge provided an opportunity to see popular film locations and some older graffiti. While in transit, Cindy pointed out popular food and beverage spots like Handsome Coffee and Urth Café, along with the mixed-use development project, One Santa Fe, currently under construction. The Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Center for the Arts will have space in the 510,000 square foot development. Across the street, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is housed in a quarter mile long concrete structure that was once the Santa Fe Freight House. Cindy also pointed out art galleries and art event spaces like The Box Gallery, Traction Arts and Art Share LA, where Downtown Muse had an opening that evening featuring art work based on photos of downtown.
Starting at Angel City Brewery, Cindy introduced tour participants to murals that included Cream of the Crop by Dabs & Myla and How & Nosm, painted during MOCA’s 2011 “Art in the Streets” exhibition and a mural featuring four generations of artists, RISK, SEEN, Trave and Dame.
Part of the excitement of the Arts District is you never know who or what you’ll see. An unexpected highlight of the tour was running into artist Nuke in the American Hotel parking lot who told us about the Earth Crew mural and the walls of the notorious punk venue Al’s Bar. He explained he has been the building’s caretaker and has been painting with the UTI Crew and others for over 20 years. Later on the tour, the group happened upon artist 5150, and got a surprise viewing of Czech Republic singing sensation Michaela (Míša) Nosková as she was doing a photo shoot for a calendar surrounded by the mural work of over a dozen artists including Vyal, BB Bastidas, Mister Cartoon, Dcypher, MSK Members, CBS/UTI/LOD Crew, OFA Crew, Defer K25, and others.
In Joel Bloom Square, a quick greeting with Jonathan Gerald of District Gallery preceded more outside mural viewing. Everyone was excited to see Shepard Fairey’s famous Peace Goddess among other colorful murals. A brief half hour break allowed participants to check out the eateries, some of which had pre-arranged with CARTWHEEL to offer discounts to tour members. After chatting and snacking in groups at Angel City Brewery, The Pie Hole, Novel Café, Umami Burger, Wurstküche, Zip Sushi, and Nola’s, the group’s hunger for art continued. On the bus back, Cindy pointed out Handsome Coffee, where Jerry Seinfeld had recently filmed an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The return bus trip also provided a better view of Christina Angelina & Fin Dac’s mural and a Cleon Peterson mural.
The bus ride continued with everyone buzzing from seeing over seventy murals, inquiring about future CARTWHEEL tours, and discussing what to see at the LA Art Show. Since CARTWHEEL was a media partner for the LA Art Show, Cindy suggested several booths, adding that they should check out her favorite section, Littletopia, curated by Red Truck which included galleries like La Luz de Jesus, Spoke and Thinkspace that CARTWHEELart.com follows on the art fair circuit and here in LA.
CARTWHEEL’s first event of 2014 was a great success! Given the success and enthusiasm for this tour, CARTWHEEL is anticipating creating tours and events specifically tailored to your Los Angeles art needs.
Top image is a collaborative mural painted by Dabs & Myla and Greg “Craola” Simkins that was seen on the mural tour presented by CARTWHEEL for the LA Art Show. (Photo by Cindy Schwarzstein)
Some of the mural tour participants take a group photo with Isabel Rojas – Williams as the final part of the tour at the Convention Center. Works from L – R in the booth are as follows: Left side: Sonia Romero’s “Bee Fantasy,” Kent Twitchell’s “Michael Jackson (face study)”, and Pablo Cristi’s “California Bandits (left side) (Photo by Ian Robertson – Salt)
Retna, indicative of his old graffiti style work on a wall next to another collaborative mural by RISK, Revok, and Abel. Cindy shared that an old Rod Stewart “Young Turks” music video had been filmed at the location of this building and in this part of the neighborhood along the bridge and the railroad tracks. (Photo by Baha Danesh)
The group enjoyed taking photos in the parking lot here of the murals by Pixel Pancho (left) and Never 2501 (right) before viewing another mural by Miss Van and Ciroshu that were all painted to coincide with their most recent shows at Soze Gallery. (Photo by Lauren Over).
Everyone in the tour group had a favorite to chose from with the selection of murals on this building that rotate fairly often, as was the case with the new Kofe, which had just been competed the afternoon before this tour. Shown here (L-R) is Anthony Lister’s rainbow, Petal, Meggs, Deb, Tatyana Fazililazadeh, Augustine Kofie, Lady Aiko and Ralph Orda/”The Alliance”. (Photo by Baha Danesh)
JR’s “Wrinkles of the City” and Kid Zoom’s murals were the fist to be seen as the group started the walking tour at Angel City Brewery. This JR mural as well was done during the “Art in the Street’s” exhibition at MOCA in 2011. (Photo by Cindy Schwarzstein)
Muralist Nuke who explained to the tour group that he’s been the caretaker for the walls in the Al’s Bar of the American Hotel parking lot and has painted with the UTI Crew and others for over 20 years, happened to have some work in the back of his car that he showed to the group before continuing on to see more of the murals in the neighborhood. (Photo by Cindy Schwarzstein)
Guest tour host Steve Grody, author of Graffiti LA, showed the mural tour group important aspects in this collaborative wall of graffiti artists that included Vyal, Dcypher, MSK Members and CBS/UTI/LOD Crew members. (Photo by Cindy Schwarzstein)