There's something weirdly irresistible about street art. It's artistic without being pretentious. It's cool without being try-hard. And it's ridiculously Instagrammable – but you didn't need us to tell you that. It also goes without saying that there's a ton of neighborhoods around the world where it can be found, from Berlin's Kreuzberg to London's Shoreditch.
LA, however, is a city that might not spring to mind as a hub for it. But if you know where to look, you won't leave disappointed. Here, LA-based photographer Steffi Victorioso takes us on a virtual tour of Downtown's street art scene, sharing her talented shots and a little of the area's history.
So, why did you choose to photograph LA's street art?
It's one of the most distinctive things about LA. I love photographing it because every piece is so unique, and they all tell a story about LA life. That’s why it’s so popular – because everyone can relate to it, as opposed to when you go into a museum and you might see art pieces that you really don't understand. With street art, it’s different. It’s relatable, it’s accessible, and it’s shareable. Plus, it just looks really f*cking cool! Especially the murals in the Arts District.
Tell us more about the Arts District.
It's Downtown, and it's called the Arts District because back in the 70s and 80s it was a hotbed for artists of all kinds. In the early 1900s, this area experienced an industrial boom. Big manufacturing companies took over small businesses and they started building a bunch of big factory warehouses. Then after WWII, most of those factories went out of business or moved out of the area, leaving their big warehouses empty and dilapidated. That’s when the artists moved in. In the 70s a group of artists started squatting in these warehouses and converted them into their spaces. What started as a few squatters in the 70s turned into a full-blown art and music scene in the 80s.
The area's now no longer the gritty art scene it was back in the day. Gentrification has turned it into a neighborhood with super expensive lofts, cafes, and lofts, but the creative and artistic spirit has never fully left.
Whereabouts in the Arts District can you find street art?
Everywhere! There's so much of it in such a concentrated little area. Most of those big old warehouses from back in the day are still here but have since been converted into spaces for various businesses. That makes for A LOT of mural space, so you’ll see huge murals on pretty much every building. Artists from all over the world come here and around LA to leave their mark – on the sidewalks, on electrical boxes, on a walls, or in a big mural.
There’s always a new mural going up or being replaced. Buildings and sidewalks are literally covered in murals and graffiti. When the 10-year ban on public murals was lifted in 2013, the LA street art scene saw a big revival and a lot more murals started popping up all over the city.
Who's your favorite artist in LA right now?
There are so many great murals and street art pieces all over LA, so it’s impossible to choose a favorite artist. But if I had to choose one, my favorite street artist right now is WRDSMTH. He’s an LA-based artist, so you can see his work all over LA. You’ll recognize his work by the typewriter font he uses, and it’s usually just a sentence or two either on a plain white background or coming out of a typewriter. I like his work because it's always straightforward and delivers some sort of message that’s thought-provoking or inspirational, without being cheesy.
A couple of other artists worth mentioning are Crisp, Mikolaj Wyszynski, and BLAKHAT.