Saturday, May 14, 2011


OK, I am so enthusiastic about LAB ART, the new street art gallery at 217 South La Brea, that I had to walk around Hollywood Forever cemetery for a couple hours to cool off before I wrote down my thoughts. Founder, Iskander Lemseffer, has done a great service to the art world in Los Angeles by displaying the most vibrant, immediate and relevant works of our generation in a space that is alive with the romance of fun and danger- two of my favorite things.

Street Art by its nature must be in your face to get your attention as you drive around this city of never ending walls and sky. A bird hanging from a street post or a tagging rat tagged on a 7-11 can brighten your day and take your mind off the tedium of city life. But the effect of these politically charged, often hilarious and edgy, angry works by 33 different local artists in one gallery is overwhelming and totally thrilling.

Some of the works borrow and appropriate the canon of art history, the tropes of advertising, politics and literature to make powerful and gut busting comments on modern culture. Some are awesomely original. Much of it is highly skilled by artists clearly expert and well trained. Once around the gallery is not enough because on every tightly packed wall, on every inch of the floor there are pieces and if one look does not find you seeing something that makes you laugh or gasp then I don't think you are alive. Even the bar is a work of art and the folks who work there are extremely passionate and knowledgeable.

For some reason as I walked along I kept thinking of the Berlin Wall and how people used graffiti to lay claim or protest or make sense of such a dangerous and oppressive and mysterious symbol. Street art is also about people trying to give voice to their beliefs and dreams on buildings and walls and sign posts they don't technically own, that in many ways represent the capitalistic society that has left them behind. And now through LAB ART they have become part of that society, getting paid for their art...but hell, just because the works are on canvas instead of sidewalks, the brilliance and urgency are still there.


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