Jamie Masada remembered driving 38 years ago when he decided to offer his vacant lot as the location for a Black Lives Matter mural.
Masada, the founder and owner of Hollywood's Laugh Factory, drove through LA in a flashy Mercedes-Benz with black comic legends Richard Pryor and Shirley Hemphill. Paul Mooney was at the wheel. Within minutes, Mooney was stopped by police officers in Beverly Hills for alleged evasion.
Before returning to the comedy club, Mooney was run over twice. Each time the police said he was getting out of hand – something Masada said was not true. The last time they were stopped, a police officer called for assistance and everyone was pulled out of the car and searched, Masada recalled.
"Today, today, I hear from black comedians that they're being stopped in Los Angeles for 'evading'," said Masada, 60.
Misteralek painted a mural of George Floyd to commemorate his life outside a Watts supermarket. The mural was captured in 3D using drone photogrammetry. For the full augmented reality experience, click here on an iPhone 8 or higher with the latest version of iOS.
When George Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis police custody in May, Masada thought, "I have to do something about it."
He had a billboard next to his club. He had five artists – Alexandra Allie Belisle, Amanda Ferrell Hale, Noah Humes, PeQue Brown, and Shplinton – paint a 148-foot-long mural in honor of a movement revived by Floyd on May 25 after an officer from Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, was revived. put his knee against Floyd's neck for a few minutes.
The death of 46-year-old Floyd turned Black Lives Matter into a cultural and political phenomenon – inspiring cries for racial justice. And art in public spaces.
"Murals and public art are often the most powerful and misunderstood forms of creating and sustaining change," said Georgia Van Cuylenburg, founder and general manager of Arts Bridging the Gap, who organized the Laugh Factory mural. “Someone can get behind a movement and then something else happens and they move on. Art doesn't let you forget, it brings people into conversation. "
Art, she said, can maintain the dynamism of a movement by constantly reminding people "where we have been and where we don't want to go".
In many ways, LA is a natural means of viewing murals. Often pedestrianized, its slow crawl can create a kind of art gallery for murals along busy streets.
Alfonso Garcia painted the names of victims of police brutality on North Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood. The mural was captured in 3D using drone photogrammetry. For the full augmented reality experience, click here on an iPhone 8 or higher with the latest version of iOS.
"Once people get back to their normal lives in LA, they are so caught up in their daily lives, but they spend so much time driving," said Eric Bjorgum, president, and witnessed murals on the freeways and streets of the Los Mural Conservancy Angeles.
Murals are like billboards with social justice. Unlike billboards, the idea they are selling speaks to the conscience, not the wallet.
Public art “keeps reminding people of things,” said Bjorgum. "It preserves something and prevents it from being lost."
However, time poses an existential threat to murals. The paint used, its exposure to exhaust fumes and the sun, vandalism, whether the art is on private or public land, the controversy it creates, the reputation of the artist – all of these Things can affect its lifespan, Bjorgum said.
Some of the oldest murals in LA are 40 or 50 years old, but their average lifespan is “usually two to five years before something can happen. It really comes down to whatever the public likes; what they want to keep, ”he said.
Months ago, the streets along Venice's famous Abbott Kinney Boulevard were eerily quiet. Boarded up shops and restaurants featured portraits of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and other blacks who died by law enforcement.
Jules Muck made street art in Venice to commemorate the victims of police violence.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
The portraits are by Jules Muck, an artist named MuckRock who lives in Venice. Signs reading “Black Owned” and “POC Owned” were posted outside of the companies to prevent a small number of people among the mostly peaceful demonstrators from breaking in.
Most of the portraits had disappeared by mid-July. The characters have been removed; A sheet of plywood with Floyd's last words – "I can't breathe" – was kept in a basement. Most of the shops and restaurants were open again.
"This massive public art phenomenon that is popping up very quickly is fairly new," said Bjorgum. "I don't think that has happened in the past. I would assume that the spread of spray paint art, as well as the acceptance of graffiti culture, will increase. It will be interesting to see which ones last and which don't."
Taylor's assassination rocked 54-year-old artist and teacher PeQue Brown, who painted the image of the slain woman on the Laugh Factory mural.
Taylor, a black woman who worked as a paramedic, was killed in March when Louisville police, who were executing a search warrant, broke the door of her apartment and shot her eight times.
"I have spent seven years as a health care professional, particularly as a paramedic, so I recognize the stressful stress that a person's body and mind can create," he said. It is an experience that he relates to.
But Brown wanted to participate in the mural for other reasons as well. "I identify with the situation, am African American, and I know all the difficulties people have gone through with color … so it was definitely something I thought was important to get involved," he said.
The Laugh Factory in Hollywood unveiled a mural dedicated to Black Lives Matter. Alexandra Allie Belisle is photographed with the part she was working on.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
When 22-year-old Alexandra Allie Belisle was approached to contribute to the Black Lives Matter mural outside of the comedy club, she also wanted to honor black women like Taylor. In conversations about injustice and racism, "black women are often overlooked," said Belisle, a student and artist who painted a masked protester holding up a sign that read "Protect Black Women".
When law enforcement-related violence happens to women of the same color, "she is not treated with the same kind of outrage and attention," she said. "It's hard enough to be a woman, but we're black too and that's a whole different challenge in itself."
Belisle said art allows her to express these conflicts.
"It communicates how people are feeling … Public art and murals are a way for people to take responsibility for their communities," she said. "If they are removed, a realm's identity is compromised."
For writer Alfonso Garcia, his mural on North Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood was about supporting the movement and his black friends.
Three days and around 40 hours later, the 27-year-old Garcia had painted more than 500 names of victims of police brutality between 2016 and 20. "And I didn't even have enough space to continue," he added. The hashtags "Say their names" and "Black Lives Matter" also hang on the wall.
He wanted to raise her message. "I wanted to get people's attention and get them to look at the mural."
And that's what he did.
A woman drove by and stopped when she saw Garcia paint the mural. "She's reading all these names and suddenly she starts to tear apart … and she seems very happy," he recalled. She pointed to a name on the wall: Alton Sterling, her nephew. "She told us how he used to be a very good, real (person) selling CDs on a street corner," before dealing with the Louisiana police. In July 2016, two white police officers in Baton Rouge killed Sterling, a 37-year-old black man.
The woman's reaction and joy moved Garcia. "That alone is the reward," he said.
Artist Shane Grammer commemorated George Floyd, who died in May in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, with a mural on Melrose Avenue.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Shane Grammer, a 48-year-old multidisciplinary artist, has been making street graffiti since he was 19. He knows that his Floyd mural on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood will be removed at some point.
"You just know that if you're doing a mural, you have to get video footage and your photos that day as soon as you're done because you just never know what will happen with it," he said.
This was also true when he painted a series of murals to commemorate the more than 80 victims of the 2018 camp fire in Paradise, California. Grammer painted more than a dozen murals on burned cars, chimneys, and the remains of people's homes.
Grammer said some residents of Paradise "identified these murals as symbols of hope in such a devastating time," he said. "These murals really helped people."
He hopes the mural he painted of Floyd will have the same effect.