Fashion, Graffiti and L.A.'s Street Art Scene: 8 Artists to Know
Designer Jeremy Scott headlines WME/IMG's MADE Los Angeles on June 10, and in remembrance of his Met-Ball scuffle over the use of a graffiti artist’s work on Katy Perry’s gown, we salute these inspirational art outliers.
Graffiti popped up in the news in the days leading up to the Made L.A. fashion event on June 10 and 11 when Brooklyn-based artist Joseph Tierney a.k.a. Rime’s lawsuit against Jeremy Scott took a weird turn in April.
The Moschino dress Scott designed that ended up on Katy Perry at the 2015 Met Ball looks to have Rime’s “Vandal Eyes” tag emblazoned on it. Scott argued in court that since the original artwork was made illegally, it has no copyright, comparing it to the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. Known as the Black Dahlia killing, Scott’s attorneys argue that the killer in the unsolved murder mutilated Short’s body in a “particularly original and artistic way,” and therefore any photographs reprinted of the cadaver would fall under copyright law.
Rime’s lawyer has since shot back, claiming that William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch wouldn’t be protected since he wrote it on illegal drugs, but Scott’s team has stood firm by their claims that artists cannot claim copyright on work that was produced as an illegal act. It would all be easier to swallow if Scott hadn’t come under fire for nicking the artwork of legendary skateboard artist Jim Phillips. He settled with the skateboard company NHS/Santa Cruz for an undisclosed amount in 2013.
It’s also not the first time a fashion designer has cribbed street art and been tagged with a lawsuit. In August 2014, three graffiti artists known as Revok, Reyes, and Steel (Jason Williams, Victor Chapa and Jeffrey Rubin, respectively) sued Roberto Cavalli in a very similar case. That suit was settled out of court in February. And in July 2014, a street artist known as Ahol Sniffs Glue sued American Eagle Outfitters for allegedly using his art in an ad campaign. That case was settled last December. And earlier this year, British artist Malarky sued fashion boutique Bandier for using his work in designs that ended up on a fashion line.
In an article in Bloomberg BNA from January, lawyer Leila Amineddoleh said, “Whether the graffiti was legal or not muddies this area, and perhaps that's why we're seeing more and more street artists having their designs taken.” It’s interesting to note that Amineddoleh’s take pre-dates Scott’s legal defense. If the Scott case goes to trial, it will definitely clear that argument up.
What is clear is that these lawsuits are proof that graffiti is gaining in popularity, particularly among fashion designers. The entertainment industry has taken note as well. What do Adrien Brody, Chris Brown, and Justin Bieber have in common? Getting into trouble, yes. But they’ve also dabbled in the medium known as street art. Beyond celebrity puttering, Los Angeles has a long and very serious history with street art, dating back to well before the Museum of Contemporary Art’s famous 2011 exhibition, “Art in the Streets” with legend Chaz Bojorquez bombing L.A. with his cholo art and calligraphy mashup in the 1970s, while Craig Stecyk was scribbling spray paint skulls and crosses on freeway underpasses during skateboarding’s golden age.
Now, some of the world’s most famous street artists dwell here, gracing the city with murals, exhibitions, and graffiti that has industry collectors taking note.
In honor of Scott’s presentation at MADE L.A., we picked eight L.A. street artists who have caught the eye of the industry.
Fairey gained international prominence when he created the Obama “HOPE” poster, but he was widely known before that for his viral Obey stickers that utilized the visage of pro wrestler Andre the Giant. Collectors include Adam Levine and producer Maria Arena Bell. He appeared on an episode of The Simpsons in 2012. Jason Segel recently bought his former residence in Los Feliz for $2.2 million.
At a charity auction for the Angel Art Foundation at CAA in 2013, Kevin Huvane outbid Darren Star for RETNA’s “I Bet You Don’t Remember That I’m the Kid That Came Through (Used to Wash Your Car).” Patrick Dempsey and Usher Raymond are also collectors. RETNA briefly dated reality TV star Brittny Gastineau, before allegations of domestic violence against her came to light.
Scharf has created designs for a Lance Armstrong bike, and is collected by Eli & Edythe Broad, James Goldstein (owner of the Sheats-Goldstein House), and Tron and Monster producer Donald Kushner. He also appeared on The Simpsons with Fairey, and fellow street artists Ron English and Robbie Conal.
David Blaine, Adrien Brody, Robert De Niro, Benicio del Toro, Seth Rogen and producer Marc Bell (Hesher) have reportedly collected Monopoly, the anonymous man behind the Monopoly Man graffiti art.
Notoriously known for hijacking Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop, Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash has become one of the more polarizing figures in street art. Allegedly, Michael Jackson was an early collector of Mr. Brainwash art. The former filmmaker has also made an album cover for Madonna and has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Not much is known about WRDSMTH, whose street art often depicts stenciled typewriters with inspirational poetic sayings he calls WRDs spooling out of them, but he admitted in a 2015 interview with H&DF Magazine that he works in documentary TV and has written several scripts.
When Sean Parker commissioned Choe to paint the Facebook offices in 2005, he offered the artist $60,000 or stock options. Choe chose the latter, and that turned out to be a good bet. He’s now worth about $200 million. Aubrey Plaza is a collector (as is President Obama, supposedly). He’s also created set art for the comedy “Juno,” and he’s created album art for Jay-Z.
The rare “installation street artist,” Plastic Jesus is best known for his series of sculptures of a giant Academy Award in salacious situations like stripping, on its hands and knees doing cocaine off the red carpet and shooting heroin.