When we walk down the street and see graffiti, most of us will admire the art, take a selfie, or maybe even mindlessly walk right by it. Rarely do we think about who created it, spent all night painting it, and who risked themselves to share it with their community. This story is not only about the incredible street art that makes LA the vibrant city that it is, but also about the artists who live and breath graffiti. So many artists come from such different paths in life, and yet each unique journey led them to the same walls. They are united by the walls of this city, their undying passion to create, and having an open conversation with their community on social issues. Follow me on the journey of three artists who are transforming the way we use art in public space.
I worked with Cache a couple years ago for a photo gallery I had, so revisiting him to see how his art has evolved was very cool. Cache migrated from Guatemala in the late eighties. Growing up just blocks from the famous Belmont Tunnel, it is clear to see why he was so influenced and inspired by the art of such legendary walls. From the beginning of his artistic career, he was inspired by the colorful graffiti art of the day and after years of experimenting with tagging and bombs, he began exploring new ideas. One recurring idea was the use of bright and bubbly characters while playing with light and shadow.
” I evolved with my environment. I started using colors and imagery instead of the written style that was being seen as gang related,” Cache explains.
“One of my favorite memories was in ’92 when I was on a RTD bus line 10 on Melrose. I saw a crip and a blood catching tags together. The gang thing was put aside and all that mattered was the graffiti thing. It was the only time I saw crews together put the gangster stuff aside and just tag together. Graffiti transcends race, black, white, Asian, Latino… we’re all painting together.”
“Whenever someone meets me, it’s funny to see their reactions. They always think I’m going to be some white hipster or a hoodlum – no offense to either one, but I’m neither! [laughs] LA is a melting pot of cultures. It’s helped remove the cookie cutter idea of what an artist should be. I like collaborating with other artists because it pushes me to try different things.”
Inspired by writer Carlos Castañeda, who describes humans as being “trapped in human chicken coops,” Cache understood how society has been constantly manipulated by corporate logos.
“We are the chickens, we were free-range humans, now we’re all for consumption, being exploited and contained.”
And so the chickens came to life. Cache aims to create happy and positive environments in order to bring a brighter atmosphere to the Los Angeles neighborhoods.
To see more of CACHE’s work check out his site www.cachikenart.com , @cachicken
LA born and raised artist Aise Bourne always knew he would be a painter. Inspired by the graffiti he saw on the streets of his neighborhood, he dedicated himself to his art from a young age despite a difficult upbringing.
“Growing up in LA can be a melting pot of bad influences, but I always chose art first,” Bourne states.
Ancient spiritual art, classical art, and architecture have had a tremendous influence on him.
“I’ve always felt like I was a real painter,” he said when I asked him why he predominantly uses paint brushes.
Once the famous LA graffiti crew UTI caught sight of Aise’s work, he accepted their invitation to join them. When I asked him how he felt about being a part of a crew versus a solo artist, he said “It’s cool; it pushes me to do more, stay on top of my game, and teaches me how to play different roles in a production and how to work well with other artists.” The more he learned the hunger to be great grew.
“After a while you’re either a pawn or a royal piece. I wanted to not just be a hitter upper, I wanted to be seen as a professional muralist.”
“[Graffiti] requires a certain energy, to be present and in the flow. You gotta be in it, and when working with a group, you have to be able to flow together.”
As I watched this blank wall grow into a masterful piece of artwork, I wanted to know what inspires and drives him on a daily basis to create such beautiful mandalas.
” [It is the] things I’ve been through [and] people who I surround myself with. I make sure they are inspiring me as well, but mainly I have to inspire myself; it comes from the soul within me. With every brush stroke I begin to feel not only the dedication but the passion and drive it takes.”
For someone already so talented I wondered what he was striving for from all his hard work.
” I want to be a classically trained artist, to study the anatomy of the body and its movements. Art is a visual expression, recreating, recapturing life, a real imitation.”
Watching all the layers of the mandala coming together, I noticed not one single leaf or flower drawn was like the one next to it, it was perfectly imperfect. I asked Aise why he chose to do that.
“I like painting flowers and leaves because they are all different. I could paint each one identically over and over but that wouldn’t remain true to nature. Each flower and leaf grows differently and I want that to reflect in my art.”
“I want to make art in the spirit of people and to bring a peace of mind, elevation and hope. I want to do something healing and inspiring and encourage people to follow their dreams.”
With that said, its no wonder he’s seen as a major part of what is to be the next evolution of graffiti.
For more of Aise Bourne’s work check him out at www.aiseborn.com , @aiseborn
Black Light King
Raised in LA by a family of artists, Black Light King had been influenced and inspired to create very early on. He first discovered his love for black light painting at the age of 15 when he turned on a black light after drawing numerous pieces with highlighters from lack of supply.
His love for glow in the dark painting set him apart from most types of art and landed him at underground warehouse parties where his art thrived.
“I didn’t fit into the art world or the graffiti world with black light painting. I was in limbo. I learned my uniqueness was my super power and that it didn’t matter as long as I was doing what I loved,” Black Light King explains.
His discipline and dedication with his craft gave him not only notoriety but also an invitation to join the UTI Crew on his birthday. The sense of validation from joining the crew was like receiving the keys to the city and the utmost respect.
” It made me want to step up my game and allowed me to network and collaborate with other great artists.”
Not only was being a part of a crew and accepted in the graffiti community a huge stepping stone for Black Light King, it was also an opportunity to be heard as voice for his community.
“If I have the ability to use my art to say something, even if its illegal, why wouldn’t I ?”
Black Light King’s latest wall is a message to the health industry, featuring the effects of fast food and the scheming medical industry on the community. He says, ” Go big or go home.”
To see more of Black Light King’s work, check out WWW.BLACKLIGHTKINGDOM.COM , @blacklightking
Every journey has led to the same walls. Not only are these artists transforming the way we experience our city, but they are also transforming the way our generation is expressing themselves and voicing social injustice. Active change and peace are a common thread in both the streets and the minds of the people who want to live in a world made by art. To continue the journey of the culture of graffiti and where it’s headed in LA, stay tuned for my project “Spray for Peace,” a collection of journeys, art, adventures, and history to promote peace in the street and a respect and appreciation for a rapidly evolving culture. The project follows Aise Bourne, Cache, Black Light King, Teachr and many more in their fight to keep the art of graffiti true and alive. #SprayforPeace @RockmyworldRocky