Not feeling the annual dinner-and-a-movie for Valentine’s Day this year? How about grabbing your special someone’s hand and taking a guided tour of some of L.A.’s amazing street art?
Stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpaste poster bombs—these are just a few of the kinds of street art that Lizy Dastin’s tour of the Arts District in downtown L.A. includes. Dastin, who has a background in art history, began offering tours in different areas of Los Angeles a few months ago (tours of the Beverly Hills sculpture gardens are available, and tours of the Venice and Hollywood areas are in the works), and recently invited us along for a ride.
After meeting up with Dastin at The Pie Hole, we started our walking tour on Merrick Street, where we first spent some time examining sidewalk graffiti created by the stencil artist Thrashbird, which portrays an all-too familiar image: a man walking and texting. Dastin points out, “It’s on the ground, because we are always looking down at our phones.” She then directs attention to a pair of angel wings created by well-known artist Colette Miller. As we walk and talk, Dastin explains the background, installation, and composition of each piece, as well as offering her own perspective on what makes street art different from museum quality art: “Street art exists outside the mainstream, outside the institutions,” she explains. “It’s meant to be anti-gallery.”
Our next stop is at the corner of Traction and E. Third, where a Lichtenstein-inspired mural by Tristan Eaton stands out. The image, primarily composed of a close-up of a woman’s face, also contains the phrase, “I was a Botox junkie.” Dastin emphasizes the social context of the piece, as well as discussing Eaton’s relevance as an artist, and his methods. One of the most compelling aspects of Dastin’s tour is her background knowledge of each piece: she has attempted to track down and interview as many of the individual artists as possible—an impressive achievement, given the evanescent nature of street art. She offers a behind-the-scenes perspective on many of the pieces, talking about the context in which they have been created, and explaining how the artworks are affected by the controversial citywide moratorium on murals.
The walk—which lasts about an hour and includes discussion of approximately eight artworks—concludes with a consideration of a political piece by artist and activist Shepard Fairey. The piece presents the viewer with an enormous image of Reagan holding a sign reading “Legislative Influence for Sale.” Unlike some of the other works on the walk, which are made by unnamed or lesser known artists, Fairey’s name is familiar, making his work a fitting finale.
Dastin’s tour, which hits the mark somewhere between an introductory art history lecture and a city walk, is probably not quite the thing for art aficionados, but it would be a great activity for out-of-towners or for a Saturday afternoon with the kids; she does market her tour as a birthday party concept or as “the most romantic date ever.”
While the personal bespoke tours are expensive at $200, you can take a self-guided audio tour for $12.99. Downloads and maps available at Dastin’s website.