How The Hell Did They Get Up There?

Image Source: The Curve | MOCA, The Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

I think I might have been 11 when I first started to notice the gravity-defying murals under the I-5 freeway. On my daily ride to school, I’d wonder, “Who were these people risking their lives to paint names 50 ft above our rushing car, and how did they become so awesome?!

It wasn't long before I started mimicking the lettering I saw along that freeway in my own notebooks and textbooks, on the lunch tables, and all over the schoolyard. It’s safe to say that I was hooked from a young age, and as I grew older, I became increasingly more obsessed. I found myself completely immersed in the great cultural underworld of graffiti. At the time, it spoke to me the same way that skateboarding did. It was an individualistic art form; a guerilla sport with simultaneous rush and release.

Fast forward 17 years, and I find myself walking the same streets with the Rebel team. I used to skate these streets with my friends, our backpacks full of spray cans, weaving our way towards the bus to catch a ride to the Venice pits. These walls were destroyed back in 2000, but it should come as no surprise that they are now known as the Venice Art Walls.

In our youthful minds, we were the great frontiersmen of our time. Our purpose was to battle a mundane world full of teachers, cops, parents, jocks, gangsters, security guards, squares, suits, property owners, crack-heads, and rich kids with cars. We were always looking for a way up. We were seeking a fresh and new approach to accomplish something that no other had successfully done before. Graffiti and skateboarding forced us to observe our surroundings. The very same kids that joined me in the rebellion against such social stereotypes would eventually grow up to succumb, and even assume the very same labels of these ‘mundane characters’. Life is full of ironic humor.

Walking into the "Art In The Streets" exhibit at MOCA, (I felt an intense sense of pride rush through my body as I saw the skateable art installation by Lance Mountain and Geoff McFetridge. This place was like a playground of memories for me. There were pictures of the huge Saber piece along the LA river that I used to gaze at in awe as it was being created. I used to look forward to the routine Friday drive out to my dad’s place because I’d get to track the artist’s progress along the way. The Os Gemeos installation was killer. Chaz Bojorquez and Retna have the best fonts ever written.

We walked through this colorful maze, and into a dark room with people sitting on the floor. In front of them was a large screen that was playing a scene about girl skateboarders from "Mouse", directed by Spike Jonze. Holy shit! This was indeed the very first video I ever bought back in 1996!

It was at this point that everything around me became so surreal. I observed my coworkers as they watched the same video. Within their gazes, I recognized a strong parallel to the people I'd invested myself in a whopping 15 years ago. Now, I thought I was all grown up; that I was evolved, and different then the child that I was back then. However, as I stood there with my group of like-minded individuals and stared at the same pieces of art with them, I felt us all drawing out influences from DIY culture, I felt us trying to better ourselves at doing what we had all grown to love. I was humbled. I was ecstatic. I was grateful that I had been able to align myself with people who I could identify with at the core of who I was.

I was home.

Next time you're out, keep your eyes open. You may not know it at the time, but you’ll see us. Rebel Crew is going hard in 2011.