Street art finds another canvas at the home of South LA resident

Awash with bright, spray-painted colors, the brick wall enclosing a portion of Arcelia Gante’s house is becoming a piece of public art.

Five years ago, her family moved into the house located on the corner of La Salle Avenue in South Los Angeles, and since then graffiti artists have used the side of her house to create intricate murals and portraits.

Side of Arcelia Gante's house with a mural by artist Evol. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

Side of Arcelia Gante’s house with a mural by artist Evol. (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

The artwork, which is also across the street, appears to be done by members of the graffiti art crew Mad Society Kings (MSK).

“They’ve done so many things,” Gante said. “They’ve done Marilyn Monroe. They’ve done a cat and even aliens. I really like how people will pass by and look at it, and they really appreciate the artwork.”

The 18-year-old added that it gives her a sense of pride to know that her house has become a canvas for what she finds to be amazing works of street art.

However, that same sense of appreciation came around more slowly for her parents. As they started renovations on the home when they first moved in, Gante said one of the first things her parents did was paint over the murals.

Local gangs began to tag on their wall as the crew of graffiti artists confined their skills to the side wall of their neighbor’s house.

“My parents would keep an eye out for them, and when they saw them they asked them to paint our wall again,” Gante said, who mentioned that her parents now enjoy the occasional surprise of a new painting.

Discovery of a hidden gem

Francois Bar, associate professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has been intermittently photographing the revolving display of artwork.

He first noticed the graffitied walls back in 2005 while working on a project mapping wireless signals in South L.A. As his team mapped out Wi-Fi signals around USC, Bar brought along a documentary photographer to take photos of the neighborhood.

One of the walls was painted with a motorcycle along with the phrase “In Loving Memory of D.J.” Across the street, was a cartoon-looking house reading a book titled Property Value that is about to be clobbered by a happy face holding a bat with the words MSK, according to Bar.

“It was just so unlike what you would expect to find that I poked around and tried to figure out what was this saying [MSK],” Bar said. “And then I discovered that MSK is a famous crew that’s the Mad Society Kings and that Revok and Saber are a member of that crew so I was just intrigued.”

On his bike rides to USC, he would occasionally ride by the walls.  When he realized it would periodically change, he began taking photographs.

“I’ve taken pictures of graffiti when I’ve traveled and very often it’s an interesting commentary on the city,” Bar said. “All of these pictures are on the same wall. It’s two walls on both sides of the street, and I was struck because many of those are very beautiful. There is some artistry in it, so they were very striking.”

He uploads the photos onto an online photo album. Bar said he’s never had an opportunity to run into any of the artists.

Artists such as Revok, Saber, Evol and Trav are just some of the artists whose work have been on the wall. According to Bar, work by the crew True Kings Only (TKO) would also appear and at one point it seemed as if there were a dialogue between the two as the art would change between TKO to MSK.

Street to Gallery

Each artist is famous in their own right with their works featured in art galleries across the country and internationally. Recently, Revok and graffiti artist Pose completed a mural on the Houston Street wall off of Bowery in New York, and Evol’s work is currently on display, by appointment only, at Cella Gallery in North Hollywood.

Man One, artist and owner of former art gallery Crewest in Los Angeles, has been doing graffiti since 1987. He said when he started it was highly illegal and many kids did graffiti as an alternative to joining gangs.

Graffiti has become more socially acceptable with museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles exhibiting “Art in the Streets,” a look at the history of graffiti and street art that attracted thousands of visitors.

Despite graffiti’s increasing popularity, Man One points out that it is still illegal.

“The laws are stiffer, and the art form has also changed,” Man One said. “People didn’t acknowledge it as an art form. They just thought of it as a bunch of kids doing stuff in the street.”

Gante said she believes the work of those like Evol and Revok is art, and points out the respect their work receives from the neighborhood.

“Once you see a mural that people actually do themselves, they spend their time and they can actually do a portrait – people respect that,” Gante said. “You don’t really see other people tagging on it…it’s not, ‘oh, it’s another person’s art I don’t care.’ They actually do care, which I find amazing.”

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