L.A., Meet Your Artists

Street art in Los Angeles is ubiquitous—the artists who create it, not so much. Local poster artist Robbie Conal helps us make the necessary introductions



theessentials_masa_tWho: Banksy
Robbie Conal says: “The greatest.”
Hometown: Bristol, England
The basics: The elusive street artist is perhaps best known for keeping his identity a secret. His art, which is graphic and witty, provides political and social commentary on current world issues like war, fame, and poverty. Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary Banksy directed about the transformation of Thierry Guetta from art fan to street artist, was nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award. Banksy pulled publicity pranks the month leading up to the 2011 Oscars, with new works spotted on the Sunset Strip, Sunset Boulevard, in Westwood, and in Beverly Hills.
Spot it: In the U.K., the United States, Israel’s West Bank barrier, and Australia


theessentials_masa_tWho: Shepard Fairey
Robbie Conal says: “He’s like Sherman-Williams paint; he covers the Earth.” 
Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina
Education: B.A., Rhode Island School of Design
The basics: Fairey developed a following within the skateboarding community when he created the “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” sticker campaign, which later morphed into the “Obey Giant” campaign. He received national fame in 2008 when he designed the Obama “HOPE” poster. The Associated Press later sued Fairey for lifting an AP photo for the poster. The suit was dropped this year due to a “suggestion of settlement.”


theessentials_masa_tWho: SABER
Robbie Conal says: “He’s advancing the art form.”
Hometown: Glendale
The basics: SABER is best known for creating the world’s largest graffiti piece along the L.A. River in 1997. The piece took 97 gallons of paint and more than a year to finish. It was buffed out by the City of Los Angeles in 2009.
Spot it: Stateside. SABER’s work has been seen in almost every major city in the United States.
Signature: Recent artwork includes contemporary takes on the American flag 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Mear One (Manifest Energy and Radiate), né Kalen Ockerman
Robbie Conal says: “One of the greatest graffiti artists in Los Angeles or anywhere else.”
Hometown: Santa Cruz
The basics: Ockerman is a self-taught artist commonly referred to as the “Michelangelo of graffiti.” After becoming famous for tagging in the ’80s, Ockerman began designing album covers for artists such as Limp Bizkit.
Signature: Large, colorful, mural-like pieces 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Becca
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Education: B.F.A., Virginia Commonwealth University; M.F.A., San Francisco Art Institute
The basics: Becca Midwood is the most well-known female street artist in Los Angeles. The 43-year-old began her career as a street artist in the early ’90s.
Spot it: Most of her work appears in downtown and East L.A., but she has also hit San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York, and Virginia
Signature: Feminine cartoon characters signed “becca” 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Alec Monopoly
Hometown: New York
The basics: Another anonymous street artist, Alec Monopoly is a recent addition to the L.A. street art scene. He takes his alias from his work, which depicts the classic Monopoly man. He also creates colorful portrayals of icons like Jack Nicholson, Bob Dylan, and Twiggy that are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s pop art.
Spot it: L.A. lampposts and building sides
Signature: The Monopoly man, “Alec” 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Mr. Brainwash
Hometown: Los Angeles 
The basics: Born as Thierry Guetta, this French filmmaker-turned-street artist was the subject of Banksy’s 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Conspiracy theorists speculate that works credited to Mr. Brainwash are in fact created by Banksy. His debut show, Life Is Beautiful, was held in L.A. in 2008. One year later, he designed the album cover for Celebration, a collection of Madonna’s greatest hits. His work preaches positive messages about beauty and self-love and frequently depicts celebrities in pop art form.
Signature: “MBW” 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Homo Riot
Hometown: Los Angeles
The basics: Perhaps one of the most controversial artists in an already controversial field, Homo Riot is a gay artist who displays bold and suggestive images of men, like this one, wearing KISS-style makeup
Spot it: Across L.A., the southwestern United States, and China
Signature: Homosexual imagery 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Space Invader
Hometown: Paris, France
The basics: A French street artist and cousin of Thierry Guetta, Space Invader builds small tile mosaics inspired by the 1970s video game Space Invaders. Invader also makes artwork out of Rubik’s Cubes. Most famously, he posted mosaics on all nine letters of the Hollywood sign, beginning on December 31, 1999.
Spot it: He has hit over 40 cities in five continents worldwide
Signature: Pixilated animation 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Kofie ‘One, né Augustine Kofie
Hometown: Los Angeles
The basics: Kofie has been doing graffiti in West L.A. since the mid-’90s. His murals are abstract yet geometric. He’s been commissioned to do murals and window installations by fashion lines such as Munky King and Hugo Boss and has been featured in galleries across the world for nearly 20 years.
Spot it: In Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art through September 4 


theessentials_masa_tWho: Free Humanity
Hometown: Los Angeles
The basics: Free Humanity’s mission statement is “Taking back the Humanity stolen from our minds by social manipulation and planting seeds of positivity through art and consciousness.” He demonstrates his worldviews through wheatpasted images.
Signature: A girl with a veil over her face

Photographs courtesy (in order): mrbrainwash.com, banksy.co.uk, wikipedia.org, saberone.com, mearone.com, beccamidwood.com, alecmonopoly.com, mrbrainwash.com, space-invaders.com, keepdrafting.com, freehumanity.la

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