Site Specific: A Graffiti Micro-History at Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel, by Steve Grody

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There are innumerable sites of graffiti activity across Los Angeles. Some have been one-time spots, while others have been and may still be considered “yards,” a place where graffiti is done regularly. These sites cover the continuum from legal and even commissioned work, to illegal. The continuum of the “non-permission” i.e. illegal work runs the gamut from deliberate vandalism (on, say, a storefront or public mural) to not vandalistic at all (can painting on an abandoned building slated for demolition really be considered vandalism?).

Long before artists started to occupy buildings in what became the Arts District, local gangs left their mark in sidewalk scribes. If one looks closely, “hit-ups” on the sidewalks may still be found by Cuatro Flats, Primera Flats, Mateo Street, Nite Owls and Dog Town gangs among others in the area. The Arts District has been an active area for writers, the traditional name for those doing modern non-gang graffiti, since 1991 when the parking lot of Al’s Bar, a seminal Punk club, became a permission site. Many foundational L.A. writers painted those walls. The Arts District and industrial surroundings became attractive to writers because many of the early artist denizens were accepting of the new graffiti in the neighborhood, and many other spots were simply isolated enough that no one cared. The early wave of graffiti writers included members of DTK, CBS, UTI, AWR/MSK, WAI, LOD, LTS, OFA, OTR, SH, KSN, STK, SKA, ICR, RTN and DCV crews.

The Globe Mills complex that has become Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel L.A. became an active spot in 2000. Many of the above crews were glad to have a good visible spot to paint where they didn’t have to worry about getting shot at by local gangsters or chased by police (although police harassment still could take place even when painting with permission). The walls became a de facto Hall of Fame, a place where writers, young to the game or veteran, would come to see prominent crews and individuals bringing their “A Game” to the walls. The work here often stayed up longer than at other yards before getting painted over. Initially this was out of respect. Permission became required when Jeremy Williams started living and working there in 2009 and managing the property. Simpler work with tags and bubble letters could still be seen from time to time but even then it was usually as part of a group effort to have a “party on the wall.”

In a curious twist, Siner, whose work graced the building in 2006 as part of a fine LTS crew production, produced some of the signage on the new site.

While the graffiti community may be sorry to have to have lost an active spot with the establishment of HWSLA, it is gratifying to know that they are preserving OFA’s “Los Angeles” mural and the work by ICRs and OFAs in the inner courtyard as a respectful acknowledgement of the building’s colorful past as a community center of the streets.

Note from Cartwheel Art Tours: Steve Grody,, author of Graffiti L.A., and who worked with Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel to identify the murals on their walls, co-hosts the tours with Cartwheel Art Tours for the graffiti and street art component. The next tour is scheduled for April 17th to tie-into the 1st LA ore-screening of the full length documentary film Dark  Progressivism . It’s on the upcoming tour where in addition to Steve (who was in the film), speaking on the murals in the DTLA Arts District, we will view murals and art panels by some of the artists in the film, such as Big Sleeps, Defer , Heaven, and Prime at The Container Yard and with Skill in the UTI . More details here about April 17th’s mural and neighborhood tour.

More photos by Cindy Schwarzstein showing current murals that have been restored by HWSLA can be seen here from curatorial walk-through during press preview for the opening.

Top photo is work by CBS Crew. Photo by Cindy Schwarzstein

Coax, AD_%ps, 11-00

Coax. Photo by Steve Grody.

Daim, AD, 11-01

Daim. Photo by Steve Grody.

Gas, AD, 5-00

Gas. Photo by Steve Grody.

group d

 Photo by Steve Grody

MSK, HWS, 12-10

MSK. Photo by Steve Grody.

pg 335 2-3, %223rd%22 Saber, AD, 11-00

Saber. Photo by Steve Grody.

pg 364 13, MSK, AD, 1-03

MSK. Photo by Steve Grody.

pg 548, LTS , AD_ac-shrp

LTS. Photo by Steve Grody.

pg 696, MSK

MSK. Photo by Steve Grody.

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