L.A.’s wealthy Westside doesn’t come to mind when you think of tough urban areas rife with colorful graffiti. The city graffiti is further east, scattered in urban pockets. L.A. is so dense with artistic talent, however, that graffiti and street art still prosper west of the 405 freeway.
Venice, with its famous history of Dogtown skateboarding and street culture, is the epicenter of Westside public art. One palpable explanation is that Venice has comparatively more “legal” mural walls than other Westside neighborhoods. That means, essentially, that law enforcement allows for it. Surrounding wealthy areas don’t tolerate public art as easily. Venice’s energy, to boot, is the closest the Westside has to hip hop. In particular, gentrified family-friendly street art abounds at Venice’s Abbot Kinney Blvd., an outdoor mall of sorts a few blocks from the ocean.
Hippie artistry runs through street pieces. Tension and suspense don’t affect the street art experience. Venice is a relatively relaxed place. On foot, however, the Venice Boardwalk can be a lively proposition—particularly at night—with the occasional rowdy, drunken set looking for a social exchange you don’t need.
What isn’t as visible in Westside L.A. is gang graffiti. Although it pops up here and there, gang graff scrawls look like an aberration isolated from the city and not conducive with the beach-y vibe. An 18th St. tag—which pops up in other areas of L.A.—looks out of place and inauthentic. Peace and love, peace and love.
What’s noteworthy is how proudly neighborhood-specific Venice is with art—the zip code pops up on a prominent Dumpster near the Boardwalk. The “Dogtown” neighborhood, which is essentially a name variant on the local area, mixed with its unique culture, comes before the artist—not always the case in other L.A. neighborhoods.
Pack your sandals and head towards with the beach with 10 of my graffiti and street art photos strolling the streets of L.A.’s Westside at night. —Nicholas White
Jonas Never’s Venice mural
This is the most prominent piece of street art on the Westside in terms of scale and ambition. It’s the sight of Venice’s historically famed town center, with the overhanging “Venice” letters and a small town look—creating a sense that you’re transported away from the city and into a new area. Never’s work, which he often does with L.A.’s Cult Crew, is scattered around the Westside more prominently than most other artists. It displays community pride in a way that only someone who lives there can.
Jules Muck’s “Calihustle”
Another mainstay of Venice street art is Jules Muck. This “Calihustle” gem is in an alley off the Venice Boardwalk packed with public art. This combination of graffiti and visual elements creates a great local personality: “Calihustle.” It’s as close to a graffiti-style piece as you’ll find near the beach, but still street art readable enough to have crossover appeal.
Bumblebee Loves You’s Beach Ball Boy
A tastefully executed piece that looks more impressive when scale is brought in. Bumblebee is a prominent street artist outside L.A.—making this piece’s low key placement in an alley on a car garage wall all the cooler. The medium-scale color gradation is a handcrafted touch. You can almost smell the ocean air.
David Flores’ Nelson Mandela Peace Dove
What’s great about this piece from Flores—who has elegant pieces around town, from Hollywood to Silverlake to Venice—is that it has different meaning possibilities depending on what time of day you photograph it. In the early morning, it’s hopeful; at night, it’s more chic. The purple sky is unique to that day because wildfires had lit up the L.A. sky with ash and an eerie, smoky tint that mixed with the rising sun.
Jaber and Jonas Never’s Dogtown Mural
A tribute to a local legend, Jay Adams, who helped invent the progressive style of riding a skateboard close to the ground like a surfboard. Emile Hirsch played Adams, who died in 2014, in the skateboard movie Lords of Dogtown. A one-of-a-kind piece that wouldn’t work in any other area but here.
Dcypher’s Animal Heads
One of my favorite 3D pieces in Venice—there aren’t a lot—is right off of the Boardwalk, and done by CBS Crew’s Dcypher. While the animal heads look like the hunted captures of an afternoon safari, the casual passerby usually doesn’t notice that the heads stand out in a photo. It subtly underscores the difference of graffiti artists doing street art—they’re using their trademark secret language to add new dimensions to art beyond just augmented letter style.
Afrika 47 and Bisco Smith’s Mural
These two street artists are separate, but they complement each other like hand and glove. Their mural is a military-style and African-inspired people merged with the detailed graffiti writing style of Smith. The two represent a totally new feeling when they come together. The graffiti writing style is as close to traditional graffiti as anything on the Westside.
Jonas Never’s “Westside til I Die” Mar Vista Mural
Along Venice Blvd. east of Venice proper is a beautiful tribute to the Westside—and the Endless Summer vibe of the beachside. It’s another entry from Jonas Never, who personifies the local feel. It has vintage scenes of coastal L.A.; for example, the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel. Mar Vista, adjacent to Venice, is technically where you’ll find this—increasing the feel of the neighborhood’s geographic spread. What’s impressive in this one is working with black and white colors to strong effect (a Never signature) along with precision.
Saturn O’s Monsters
The monster maker himself has gorgeous 3D otherworldly creatures that are lightyears ahead of other street artists. It’s easy to see why Saturn O is popular in different cities. Saturn O’s pop comic edginess—evoking the imagery of Ghostbusters’ Slimer—perhaps might be scarier in other parts of town. The detail of his work, however, is best preserved in an area where defacement and vandalism are less likely. And in these areas, he has the time to create on the streets without interference.
Septerhed, a member of longtime L.A. crew TCF, is fairly close to many artists’ aspirations—“all city,” in that he has pieces in all areas of the city, which can be logistically difficult to do by working with crews and artists from different neighborhoods. What’s nice about this piece is that it’s not afraid to be apart from everything else. It shows a low-key confidence you’d expect from a dominant L.A. street artist. It’s not the showiest, but one of the most self-assured.