Preview & Artist Interview: CALIFORNIA LOCOS: SOCAL ORIGINALS – MASTERS OF STYLE, an Official Exhibition of Pacific Standard Time LA/LA Series
On September 16th, a show featuring a legendary group of artists will open at Eastern Projects Gallery in LA’s Chinatown district. CALIFORNIA LOCOS: SOCAL ORIGINALS – MASTERS OF STYLE promises to be one of the highlights of the LA Fall art season, featuring a group show of renowned contemporary artists exhibiting uniquely LA –style artwork.
Curated by original LOCO Chaz Bojórquez and Christina Bojórquez, the exhibit will include original Locos members Dave Tourjé, John Van Hamersveld, Norton Wisdom, and Gary Wong as well as newly invited artists Mister Cartoon, Shepard Fairey, Estevan Oriol, Retna, Slick, and Robert Williams in what will be the Loco’s largest and longest running exhibit to date. This tour de force will bridge the gaps between High Art, East-side flavor and iconic surf art, Cholo–style and skate culture, tattoos vs. cartoons, hot-rods and low-riders. Putting aside a history of distrust, competition, and even battle, this groundbreaking exhibit brings the two cultures “nose–to-nose”, as symbolized with the display of Mr. Cartoon’s lowrider facing Tourjé’s customized hotrod on the street in the public courtyard of the gallery for opening night.
Exhibiting a cross-cultural mix of diverse styles that epitomize the fabric of Los Angeles, the show will highlight the impact of the Latin American culture while combining disparate genres that typically have not blended on the streets or on gallery walls. The timely show, an official exhibition of Pacific Standard Time LA/LA series, that also focuses on Latin American art, and takes place in museums and cultural institutions around Los Angeles throughout the end of the year, opens the same weekend.
Along with this topically-hot exhibit of fine art and custom cars, the release of a new Dusters California X CALIFORNIA LOCOS skateboard will reflect the spirit embodied by the masters of this exhibit. This coming-together of cultures is exactly what is needed in these historic and tumultuous times. Curator Chaz Bojórquez, a renowned graffiti artist and one of the first in that genre to make the successful leap from the street into high-end gallery and museum exhibits, tells it like it is:
“The core group of five Locos have been exhibiting not as individuals but as a group for quite awhile. Our ‘manifesto’ is about our own history and our personal experiences living in the diversity of Los Angeles. We even created our own meaning for the word Loco! To us, loco is not ‘crazy in your head,’ but crazy for life, West Coast style! If you are inspired and living your life by making art, painting graffiti, cartoons or making music, you’re a Loco!”
Chaz curated this show with the desire to temporarily expand the roster of artists to include more variety, but also to speak more about the LA lifestyle, including the language, fashion, sports and unique imagery that only exists on the streets of LA. Some of the new artists he has known for 20 to 30 years, and all of them had to meet specific criteria. They needed to be world renowned but from the West Coast, and they had to be original and influential in the art world, creating their own profound imagery that is widely recognized internationally.
As one of the participating artists who has been creating art for nearly 5 decades, Chaz Bojórquez is considered the local godfather of graffiti art. His iconic street image, a stylized skull called “Señor Suerte” (Mr. Luck), has become a seminal icon in graffiti art. Bojórquez’s paintings are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, Laguna Museum of Art, and L.A.C.M.A, with his work prominently featured in the renowned ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibit at MOCA in 2011.
The LOCOS ringleader Dave Tourjé, was born and raised in the 70’s in the culturally eclectic and densely populated Northeast LA. Living in close proximity to skaters, gangs, Cholos, taggers, punkers and artists, it is only natural that all of these elements play a part in his artwork. Once a member of the influential L.A. band the Dissidents, Tourje played shows with Camper Van Beethoven, Saccharine Trust, and The Minutemen among others. Tourjé’s artwork is therefore part symphony, part cacophony, as he takes a beat from punk music and turns it all on its ear. His work has been seen at the Oceanside Museum of Art, the Orange County Museum of Art, and Laguna Art Museum, with a solo retrospective exhibit at the Riverside Art Museum in 2002, featuring 15 years of paintings on acrylic glass. In 1998, Tourjé helped to form the Chouinard Foundation after purchasing the home of Nelbert Chouinard, in order to help restore the lost history of one of the great art schools in the world. Beyond art and music, Tourje has another love – his hotrods.
“I’m bringing my blown ’62 Nova Pro Street drag car. It is competition level and runs about 800 horsepower to the wheels. Mechanically it has been built out by renowned hotrod and funny-car mechanics, overseen by my primary mechanic Judd Wenzel of JCW Automotive in Azusa.
Not ironically, my major painting for this exhibit is called ’62 – The Turn of the Century.’ The idea is that art-making all changed from unplanned to planned around the time Hard Edge and Pop hit in the early ’60s, signaling the entrance of Postmodernism as we still know it today. The painting is a trainwreck of all this, along with Kustom Kulture, war and other related mayhem. My car is a symbol of that as well.
Where it really gets even more LOCO is that I curated all the original LOCOS’ artwork onto my car, and I am getting it wrapped before the show. So make sure you come out on opening night for its debut. Facing Mister Cartoon’s lowrider, it will be SICK!!”
Mister Cartoon’s ’58 Chevy is a stunning example of art meeting automotive, with intricate pinstriping, layered “flames” and a depth to the paint job that makes one think they could swim in it.
This legendary ensemble of artists will undoubtedly pack the house at Eastern Projects on opening night, but the hope is that the exhibit will also inspire a new generation of artists as well as collectors, and shine a spotlight on these uniquely LA life-style inspired genres. Nowhere in the world do you find communities of such extraordinary diversity living in such close proximity. This melting pot of ideas and inspirations has created a new art movement, taking street art to the next level, elevating graffiti into museums, cross-pollinating styles of painting and helping bridge the cultural gap through the shared West Coast lifestyle. As Chaz states:
“Throughout my 50 year career I’ve met so many creative people involved in different kinds of art. From tattooists creating incredible artwork on skin, to surfers and skaters achieving jaw-dropping maneuvers, or graffiti writers painting billboard-size murals for the love of it, it is our shared experience of living in LA that brings it all together. Living their art through their cars, their clothing, their music, their craft – the cultures are parallel.”
“This show is about a ‘West Coast’ aesthetic, where each Cali Loco brings their own experience to the table. That’s what makes us unique to the world and I believe some of the best artists of this time. In my heart I know that we are ‘forward thinking’ artists, and worthy of greater respect than we are often granted. We don’t need New York history or European collectors in control of our real value. Art itself has no value – it only becomes valuable when someone believes in your work. That is our Loco paycheck. We believe in ourselves, and the contributions we have made for decades. This show is to celebrate our own history and worth.’
“CALIFORNIA LOCOS: SOCAL ORIGINALS – MASTERS OF STYLE”
Saturday September 16th – October 28th
The California Locos are dedicating their show at Eastern Projects to Greg Escalante, the world class gallerist, surfer, publisher, champion of artists, and dedicated progenitor of our SoCal culture. They will have an altar in Greg’s honor, so bring your memories, photos, or just yourselves to celebrate the memory and contributions of this titan of the Artworld, whose bright and generous spirit has helped and inspired so many.
Saturday September 16th (6-10pm)
Eastern Projects Gallery
900 North Broadway, Suite 1090
Los Angeles, CA 90012
John Van Hamersveld
John Van Hamersveld
Robert Williams and Chaz Bojórquez