It just so happens that for the past month five radical and renowned underground artists with the deepest roots in California have had some of their most recent work occupy the entire spaces of the Redpipe Gallery in the Arts District of Chinatown and Medina right next door.
Chinatown is not the first neighborhood that comes to mind when wondering where to head in Los Angeles to see some truly singular artwork, but after seeing “California Loco’s” it should. Unfortunately the show is set to have its closing reception too soon, Saturday, June 28th to be exact. Effort should be made to see the show but don’t be down if you cant make it out, PC has pictures!
These five artists’ lives and their work collectively incorporate and cover the last half century of everything surf, skate, and subculture in SoCal. There is no sedentary aesthetic assimilating all of the figures’ work. Instead these men manage to capture something much larger. The cooperation and collaboration of the content constitute a complete map of Californian counter culture. Step into Redpipe and be dazzled by the visual dive into the cesspool of glamour and grime known as Los Angeles.
Norton Wisdom is as local as Los Angelinos get, and as prolific as they get. He has been fabricating his gallery art with fervor since attending UC Berkeley in the 1960’s and has been creating art live with musical accompaniment since not much longer after that. Excluding excursions to Europe to complete tasks like painting on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall, Norton has remained living in SoCal performing, painting, and contributing more to the art scene than arguably any. His gallery pieces manifest themselves on canvas by separating into trapezoid segments compiling a picture frame form. Using this motif Norton fills each trapezoid and piece with vibrant color, patterns, and brilliant classical figures with spiritually surreal and religious twists to it all. His live paintings are an entirely different but equally, if not more, awe-inspiring experience. When on stage with individuals like Beck, Lili Hayden, Mike Watt, George Clinton, and Lynn Foulkes, Wisdom does something so special. With ease he rapidly creates masterpieces in tune to the fluidity and movement of the music at play, and then erases them shortly after their creation, only to replace the past image with another, causing constant wonder.
Chaz Bojorquez aka “The Godfather of Graffiti Art, is another SoCal artistic elder, who new kids like Banksy and Shepard Fairey draw their inspiration from. His work consists of calligraphy-like graffiti scripture on canvas and was exhibited at the historical Art in the Streets Exhibit at MOCA in 2011. This man is legendary amongst street artists and is debatably one of the first to make the incredible shift from street to a gallery setting. Dave Tourje is another man whose expertise is born of the streets. His ascension to and through adolescence was spent amongst a much more actively diverse area of LA, Northeast LA. As another great name in the LA underground, Tourje is the spotlight of a film coming out soon dubbed L.A. Aboriginal. The film will tell Tourje’s story as an artist, as a member of The Dissidents, as a founder of the Chouinard Foundation, and generally follow his eclectic epic of a life. Gary Wong studied at Chouinard as well and deserves as much speculation and admiration as the rest. With monumental mentors like Matsumi Kanemitsu and Emerson Woelffer, it’s no surprise that the artistic technique he utilizes is nothing short of masterful. By combining paint, sketches, and photography Wong creates an immersive collage plane. The 2-d limitations of the works are non-existent, because viewing any of his pieces is an all-inclusive occurrence. John Van Hamersveld may not be an initially familiar moniker, but his work sure is. Hamersveld is the man behind the symbolic poster for the iconic and ironic film we all hold dear, The Endless Summer. His glorious pop art has been recognized, revered, and rad for longer than most of our lives. Hamersveld has contributed much to the graphic art and visual industries in many forms. His portfolio is seemingly endless and the pieces he chose to hang at Redpipe and Medina are as vibrantly visually stimulating as the rest of his productions.
Words and images by Ian Rosenzweig