Inspiring. That’s how I would describe Los Angeles at times. Right under our noses, a cornucopia of street art there for us to explore, discover, share and love. Every turn, a new adventure. The landscape, ever changing. The artists, always evolving. The canvases, anywhere you can imagine them. Downtown Los Angeles and Melrose Ave. are two centers, landmarks if you will, for both commissioned and traditionally – well, um… applied street art.
I love exploring. Living like a tourist in my own city. I’ll put together lists of coffee shops, bars, and restaurants near iconic street art areas of LA and then head out to explore with my camera, headphones, Instagram account (tip – lookup popular street art hashtags to find key areas to target), and my bike. Hopefully this post inspires you to grab your camera, some good music (if you need some –> here is “Songs I Dig In 2014” Playlist) and to hit the street for a walkabout.
Heads up — the locations of the street art are in a neighborhoods that have plenty to offer, but they are still warehouse districts with a diverse population. You’ll see a hipster dad walking his dog with a $5 coffee and a junkie shooting up in a alleyway. Keep your head up and don’t go alone, especially if you are lugging around nice camera equipment. Just be smart about where you go.
Interesting that two of my favorite artist in this urban gallery space focus on nature and wild life. Kim West (Los Angeles) and ROA (Belgium) both have more than a few large scale pieces up in the area. Both have very unique and beautiful styles.
Kim West, a former pre-law student, changed course to focus on art full time. A graduate of The Rhode Island School of Design, West’s work is colorful, textured and highlights landscapes of wildlife and glitter. With her husband, West moved to Los Angeles with an easel strapped to the roof of a U-Haul trailer. She currently lives and works in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Two of her large scale murals can be found on Mill St. and 7th St. – a 10 minute walk from one another.
This piece, on the More Media building, is relatively new. West posted updates on progress to her Instagram account. It’s located on Mateo St. between 7th and Violet, just down the street from the David Choe mural. West began her street art career when a fan of her work asked if she would be interested in a commissioned piece on a building’s exterior walls. West accepted.
Moving from Mateo to Mill St., you can find an older piece by West. This one wraps around the building. You can see the use of color and outline to pop forward the art. Use of gold/glittered paint on the accents catch the sun well. A nice touch. Combined with the rough styling/textures, it’s truly original work.
West is a fine artist that takes her work from the studio to the street. Her work can be seen on print, film, TV, commercials. West also keeps her progress on work up-to-date on her Instagram. A good follow and responsive if you want to ask her questions on the feed.
Maintaining a connection to nature, Roa – a Belgian street artist, began his fascination with archaeology at a very early age. Collecting skulls of local animals, Roa would draw what he collected – the start of style and practice that would maintain throughout his career. An elusive and secretive artist, Roa is primarily known for his large scale murals of animal life/death in countless countries all over the world. Whereas Kim West is an example of the quality of local artists contributing to the scene, Roa highlights the level of global talent also contributing to the scene.
Roa works primarily in spray and acrylic paint and lives in the black and white realm for the most part. He studies the local environment and animal life to inspire his work. His early passion for archaeology persists as Roa spends time in the natural history museums of his host city to provide a hyper-relevant layer to his vision. His subjects range in life stage. From the vibrancy of youth and health, to the skeletal and everything in between. Roa states, “Organs are vital substances of our body an they represent a lot of the symbolism which I like!”
The first Roa piece I experienced was on a trip to East London with my wife. We were on an Alternative London street art tour – an experience I would highly recommend – when we turned a corner to a 30′ high porcupine, I was floored. A couple months later I head downtown to get some coffee and the now closed Handsome Roasters and sure enough, there they were – five huge Roa pieces in my own city. Love. Highly recommended to go see these pieces soon as they are getting hit up by local letters and tags.
Roa has traveled all over the world. Created hundreds of murals. He is mysterious and he is talented.
Two artists of very different backgrounds who are both unleashing their incredible talents on our city. I truly feel lucky to be a part of it, even if it’s just walking around taking pictures. I’ve added a map to some of the spots I explore – not all, you have to find your own path – but, you can get a flavor for the art and coffee/food/drink spots in the neighborhoods to check out.
I MADE A MAP FOR YOU TO START OUT WITH – ENJOY!
DTLA – Places to Hangout:
Melrose/LaBrea – Places to Hangout: