Neighborhood Beautification

Going down the street of my neighborhood is a daily routine. I skate/walk up and down everyday whether I’m coming/going to work or I’m on another of my misbegotten adventures in L.A. Everyday I see the same cars and houses and everything is pretty routine and bland.

Needless to say I was surprised the other day when I say two talented graffiti artist taking up their spray cans to paint something across the street from where I live. The bright colors and beautiful koi fish swimming on the wall seem out of place, but they are welcomed over tagging any day.

I noticed the two artist working on it two days ago and waited for them to finish their piece before I talked to them. Part of the reason was because I didn’t want them to think I was some cholo hitting them up for writing in their barrio. They’re not part of a crew or anything, they just wanted to bring art to the neighborhood. While I was watching them work I talked to them and the home owner and asked them why ? I asked this question because it struck me as odd that graffiti art would be found this close to homes and that it was the the owners idea. The home owner said that she likes that kind art, “una palabra que falta en mi vocabolario…arte.” She’s seen it all around and here son is proficient in this style of art, which is why she asked him and his friend to do paint something. The idea to paint koi fish was because they love them.

Her family recently moved from Echo Park, where they lived there for 14 years, to Boyle Heights a few months ago. They moved because they couldn’t afford to pay rent at the house they lived in…cough…gentrification…cough.

She said that art like the one on the wall should be seen more often rather than tags or gang writing on the wall. I asked her about it getting white washed or tagged on and she said that she hopes that others will leave it alone in good faith and respect for the work her son and his friend put in to it. I also realized that was the first time I ever talked to my new neighbor since moving in. We’re all so self involved in our lives that sometimes we can’t even stop and say hi to our neighbors. Now, whenever I see them pass by I wave and say hello or ask how their day is going. Suddenly, I feel like signing the Mr. Rogers song. “Won’t you be my neighbor ?”

31 thoughts on “Neighborhood Beautification

  1. I really like their style. I think it’s a beautiful piece. I was noticing yesterday as I drove around how much brighter the city is, buildings are less and less stuck with being beige and white. Finally, some color!

  2. what an awful sight. why can’t these losers, uh, i mean, artists find some other outlet or means on which to unleash their boredom….buy some canvass boards at michael’s for 4 or 5 bucks and paint for around 20.00, to create images only an artist can truly appreciate and understand…geeeesh….let the rest of us enjoy the beige and white colors of our neighborhood walls…

  3. Hey rosie, sarcasm doesnt translate well on the net unless you put the word “sarcasm” in the comment.
    Nice work BTW, artistic graffiti is good means of pushing social deviance into a more productive arena.
    (sarcasm) Oh wait, they should lock those kids up and throw away the key, that has always helped (sarcasm)

    See how its done Rosie.:)

  4. I wish someone would get inspired to do something with Pershing Square that cemented park is screaming for some creativity.

  5. Art,
    I don’t like the paintwork…am i allowed to think this way? I grew up in the area and never liked the painted walls…there are a lot of us that think as i do…(not sarcasm)I like greenery and hedges, lots of hedges…and english rose gardens and cacti, lots of cacti…and pottery, lots of pottery…

  6. Of course you are allowed to not like something. Art is very subjective. I wish people would express more often art they dd not like. I in general in LA do not like group shows. They seem not put together well, not the artists in the shows fault, but mainly the curators and in general insulting to longtime ethnic and women artists who should be getting solo shows. Group shows are for emerging artists or for an exhibit that has a very strong point. I hate it when they put established ethnic and women artists in one big mess of a show just so they can pretend as if they are being diverse.

    Can not a person other than a white man get a solo show in 2008? Shepard Fairey gets a solo show. Wessly Willis gets a solo show, but these guys will never get that chance until they are old and pointless then the art establishment will grant a piece of their work a showing with 200 other people. Why do they do this pandering.

    Oh yeah to keep their funding and we are so happy to get a crumb.

  7. Rosie,
    than you must be a very close minded idiot. I caught the other comments about self help and figured you are being sarcastic, how sad that you are actually saying how you feel. You are entitled to your narrow minded opinions, but I will let you knwo they are a big part of what makes LA shitty. From your comments I’d bet you are some self righteous pious fool, good for you. Id bet an old fart as well.

    Good job, these kids are idiots for taking the initiative to paint a picture most folks deem as nice on a wall otherwise full of tags. Just so you know, beige bland walls get tagged much quicker in Boyle heights than a colorful mural. I guess you prefer to keep walls for open tagging. or maybe you feel some need to be a bitchy debbie downer. anyways, I dont appreciate your stiupid comments. And I am entitled to my opinion. Your comments are like graffiti on the net, a bunch of judgemental shit alking and little else.

  8. art,

    your ghetto thinking has got the best of you. I suppose you think you have a monopoly all things “latino”. whatever! my comments to you specifically included zero insults, except of course the harsh word “losers” that I addressed the “artists” with, but you are quite the fit for such a word as well… “narrow minded”…i guess any opinion that does not suit you fancy is “narrow minded”…whatever! get a grip…drink a beer…and let those of us who dislike the paintings have some space to say so..don’t fall apart Art!

  9. Rosie, I bet your friends with that loser armando herman as well. Narrow mindedness is what keeps BH in the sad state its in.

    People like you would rather work out your emotional dysfunction through externalized channels (talk shit about others actions, such as beautying their community, while being an example of a negative medium being used in a positive manner)rather than fix what inside you makes you so miserable and dysfunctional. Its an epidemic in the Latino community, and I’ll be damned if i accept it. My opinions and assumptions of you are based on sound precedence, you fit the mold of the pious unhappy judgemental self righteous poverty pimp who thinks that your dismissing and talking shit about others you are accomplishing something. You are not, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your family, your community and your raza.

    I am not falling apart, I am setting you straight. People like you need to hear that, because otherwise your sense of entitlement, and the volume of your voice grows, that train always comes in on time. Like I said, you are entitled to your opinion, but dont get all sentida because someone doesnt appreciate your whining and lets you know it. Folks like you are a parasite to our community and culture, the naysayers, the debbie downer, the overly self righteous.

    I dont like bland walls full of tagging, and the fools who prefer that to works of art. BTW what is so specifically bad about it? Why is a blank wall that will get tagged so much better than this colorful one that is a much better way to avoid tagging? And where did you get that I have a monopoly on “all things latino” from, because i dont appreciate your shit talking?

  10. Art,

    are you done with your rant, because this “beautification” thing was over for me a loooong time ago, but i see you’re chasing your tail over it…i did not know, by the way, how prophetic you are, but you’re profile of me is right on target! how do you do it? calm down, have a beer and get over it! im here to stay, cabeza de melon…or better yet, CABEZON!!

  11. what i see in these photos are taggers, defacing walls! whatever the reasons behind their need to paint on walls is none of my business…my business is my community. these taggers are but a handful of residents who feel compelled to force the rest of us who are not as gifted in such talents, to watch them as they paint walls–and use ugly colors while attempting– to “beautify” the community…lets not kid ourselves…my dissenting voice is probably more in line with the sentiments of most residents…

  12. SO now you have found a “fight” to fixate on and gain some unhappy happiness from, good for you. Telling how none of my questions are answered.

  13. my dissenting voice is probably more in line with the sentiments of most residents…

    …most residents are boring.

    Rosie, it sounds like you’re…jealous. “force the rest of us who are not as gifted in such talents, to watch them as they paint walls…”

    I actually agree with you that greenery is nicer than paint, because for many, greenery is not as polarizing as art (which people can like or hate, but it’s hard to hate a boxwood hedge); plus, it’s better for the air. But most public plantings (a) die from neglect (b) guzzle expensive water.

    Art, you’re kinda being a dick. No one ever wins an argument by calling names. All arguments in LA should be settled by illegal cockfights.

    And Rosie, a tagger is someone who “tags” a wall with their name & runs off, not someone who takes the time & effort to buy expensive paint & create a large-scale work of art in the daytime.

  14. Im not kinda being a dick, I AM being a dick. I’d much rather immitate a penis than allow roosters to do my dirty work, now thumb wrestling is another story…

    And plenty of people have won arguments by calling others names, the american usurption of the wild west won the public’s approval by calling natives “savages; Dubya won the argument of whether we should preemptively attack Iraq by calling Saddam and co. “terrists with nukular weapons”.

    Bu youre right, Ill stop.

  15. Rosie, Thank You, thank you. For having the balls to say what many of us think but don’t dare say publicly! By reading the typically hotheaded responses of this Art character you can see why. If these guys had as much talent as they had “Chutzpah” they might really amount to something.

  16. art,

    you are so insightful and, frankly, the sharpest pencil around here. to stretch lucinda’s point about “name calling” to the political arena and citing its causal link to historical transgressions, is simply nothing short of brilliant…let me have fun here a bit and give my own profile analysis of you (never having met you of course)…its a game you’ve played but you wouldn’t call it that would you? I assume in school you were a mecha member, took a lot of chicano studies courses, perhaps even majored in chicano studies or latin american studies; you have convinced yourself that you have a direct blood line to the aztecs and you rail against any authority because, well, you are BORED! grow up and join the world of adults…CABEZON!!!

  17. Sorry wrong and wrong, never involved in MECHA never majored in chicano studies. Urban planning is what i got my BS in. So why have you STILL not answered my questions?

  18. art,

    what question? i’ve only seen complaint after complaint in your posts.what question? im dying to know what you want to know…if its about me, all i can say is im a teacher, relatively young (in my 30’s). I can speak for my community because I was born and raised in Lincoln Heights; grandma is still there…I was a book worm growing up and the gang crap and tagging, and “poverty” in the area, i simply failed to notice…my antennae picked up mostly the good stuff…like the wonderful families raising good kids; the hard working people in my community; need i go on?

  19. Art,
    one more thing, if you would like to get to know me better, cause i seem very beguiling to you, go to—ive written a post about you:)

  20. Personally, I don’t see what’s so great about white and beige walls. In fact, if I were ruler of all things, beige paint would be outlawed…that, and Comic Sans.

  21. Why is a blank wall that will get tagged so much better than this colorful one that is a much better way to avoid tagging? And where did you get that I have a monopoly on “all things latino” from, because i dont appreciate your shit talking?

    I understand theoretic hopefullness, but you and I both know that blank walls in Boyle heights get tagged much quicker than some colorful coifish. Anyways, its one thing to not appreciate graffiti art, but why so much hate towards it that you’d post comments where you call these kids trying the beautify their hood chumps and losers? the average person would not go to that extreme, why are you so emotionally vested in attacking these kids?

    If you are from the barrio and grew up around loserish kids you shouldve seen that some of these kids who mights smoke too much pot and tag get overlycriminalized for theri actions and come out hardened criminals, right? Cant you see that a mom encouraging her son to paint something that took some planning and investments would be better than a beige wall for another local chavalo to tag “tiny boys”? Why would you go to the effort to call these kids losers and chumps? Your amount in investment in putting this phenomena down makes me think something else is going on there, am I right?

    As an educator you shopuld know most kids from dysfunctional backgrounds respond much better to positive reinforcement than negative, so why would you think your animosity is productive in any manner. I am not gonna tell you how to act, but noting “although I hate graffiti, at least these kids arent tagging their moniker on walls; personally I’d prefer rose bushes and pots are better for walls” sound much less haterish than calling these kids chumps or losers. And from a pragmatic standpoint, do you really think the wall accents you note or a beige or white wall keep graffiti away in Boyle Heights better than graffit murals. Froma purely subjective pragmatic standpoint cant you see the application of various contrasting colors being a much better tool at mitigating single color tagging than a blank slate? If thes kids had brushed would it be better to you? Do you feel as negatively about vines being painted on walls?

  22. “Her family recently moved from Echo Park, where they lived there for 14 years, to Boyle Heights a few months ago. They moved because they couldn’t afford to pay rent at the house they lived in…cough…gentrification…cough.” hero

    So busy looking at the Art and reading fun exchanged I didn’t catch that, well according to the LA Times there is no such thing as gentrification, it’s revitalization and this is all in your mind…yeah the LA Times is a bit of bullshit. I know of many of these stories…

  23. Art,Art,Art,

    thank you for posting some rather effective arguments as to why allowing these kids to use a beige wall as a canvass is preferable to defacing the wall with a moniker as you stated. I am not angry at these kids, and I regret using harsh terms to describe them, i simply got carried away. thank you for pressing this issue with me.

    I deal with these kids and their kind of “boredom” and “restlessness” all the time in the classroom and, if i understand you correctly, the best way to channel, or give direction to their social idleness is to permit them (as though we had a choice anyway)without complaint, to use our walls to paint on. I agree, but the community is so much more than this, yet visibly the painted walls seem to give outsiders a certain impression of it that is sooooo off the mark. no doubt, the painted walls seem to paint the rest of us as well…I appreciate your work and efforts to magnify the positive side in all of this…

  24. “yet visibly the painted walls seem to give outsiders a certain impression of it that is sooooo off the mark” rosie

    No it doesn’t.

    People who think that or would think that would think that any way. You can’t behave away racism or sexism.

    If they saw a plain wall they would just think it was an “exception”.

    Who cares what a person would think if they drove to a neighborhood one time and would just snap judge it? A person like that is an asshole and who wants assholes coming to their neighborhood.

  25. There’s also an aesthetic for beige walls that is hard to maintain. It’s not the color that makes a plain white-ish wall “nice” – there are other qualities, like the flatness of the surface, the angle of the wall, the size of the wall, landscaping, the lack of flaws, and how these things are juxtaposed with the surrounding elements.

    It’s kind of like the aesthetic of concrete, or brutalist architecture.

    To have a beige wall look “nice”, it has to be large, you have to smooth the wall out, and also control the stuff around the wall.

    It’s very “classist” – because the focal point – the wall – is inexpensive, but maintaining the surroundings, and maintaining the quality of the wall, is expensive. If you can’t afford to maintain it, it starts to look very “industrial” or like abandoned property.

    This is why popular architecture has ornaments. Ornaments cost less to maintain in the long term. They serve as a focal point (or points) to make you ignore the environment.

  26. Well considering I wrote this post I’ll chime in with my two cents, so here goes. All you guys have valid opinions and points. If Rosie likes her walls bland and white good for her, I’m sure some cholo will love it even more when he writes all over it. Art also has a point that negative criticism like that of Rosies wont get us anywhere. The mother specifically wanted her son to do the piece ON HER PROPERTY and thus far I have heard nothing but, “ohh it looks nice” and “esta muy bonita” from neighbors. With that being said a person can only speak for themselves and for no one else.

  27. Busting out with my moldering & relatively useless art-history degree, I also can speak to the fact that this is actually good art. While the subject matter is certainly one we see a lot, it’s not slavishly copied from typical “Asian”-style representations, and it clearly carries a lot of the artists’ own unique style with it, especially in the heavy black lines used to bring out the fins. The heads of the fish are rendered naturalistically, not overly stylized. And what impresses me the most is the juxtaposition of colors in the background, ranging from rectilinear blocks and frames to more of a natural, water-inspired but design-oriented curvilinear patterns, which are also echoed in the sun. Having experimented with spraycan art before, I gotta say, what they’re doing is REALLY FREAKIN’ HARD. And they’re doing a great job. Skill + innovation + the ability to create accurate representations when desired + aesthetics + a unique style = good art. They’re lucky they don’t have some asshole homeowners association there that would demand they make everything boring, blank and beige.

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