Art in the Back Alleys of Hollywood

In Los Angeles, for better or for worse, graffiti has become a solid part of the urban landscape. Some of it is not so pretty, actually destructive, illegal and gang related - but then there are others (sometimes done legally) by certain graffiti crews that are stunning. (Graffiti crews are either ex- gang members who were able to exit the gang through the promise of perpetuating graffiti; or they could be merely influenced by gangs). Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to go around the back alleys of Hollywood with Steve Grody, author of "Graffiti L.A," and get his take on what was painted on the walls. Grody has been studying graffiti in Los Angeles for the past 18 years and has been able to enter a world most of us never know.
This picture only captures half of the total image on the wall but for me it was the most interesting. This production draws its influences from Japanese wood block and is distinctly unlike the style of graffiti found in New York.
This piece was part of a larger image which referenced the importance of music. The train pays homage to the origins of graffiti - the New York subway trains.
This graffiti writer above went to Art school before turning to graffiti as a means of expression.
The image of the two men above known as a graphic print is done using spray cans or paint.
This image is a representation of a graffiti writer sketching in his black book - who as a child is surrounded by and struggles with social, economic and personal demons.
Rarely seen in graffiti pieces is the use of Arabic text as seen here. Most of the text is generally written in either Spanish or English. However, in the 1980's, there were a group of graffiti writers called the Wonton Men who did very creative pieces using kanji. Interesting to note, according to Grody, graffiti crews are open to all races, nationalities, religious backgrounds. There is no discrimination between Jewish or Christian, Iranian, Syrian, Filipino, Chinese, Black, White or Latino.... You are only judged by the quality of your work.
Given the illegality of some of this work, issue of copyright becomes an interesting dilemma; especially since so much of this can now be seen online. The majority of the images I have posted above were done by the CBS crew or friends of the CBS crew such as WAI.

Check out www.50mmlosangeles.com for information on graffiti in Los Angeles and various graffiti crews. To see what is happening globally check out: www.artcrimes.com


  1. Deeba,

    Thank you for your interest and attendance at my tour. The world of graffiti is indeed fascinating and does encompass the good, the bad and the ugly. Without trying to identify all "writers" in your photographs, it would be good to say that the work was by CBS crew members or friends of CBS, such as WAI. If you took a picture of the group by any chance, I would love it if you could send it on to me.

    Thanks again,

    Steve Grody

  2. Thanks Steve, I was unable to catch all the names of the writers during the tour.