The History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art interview
Volume 1, 1983 - 1988
By: Robert "Wisk" Alva and Robert "Relax" Reiling
Interview by: duncan
May 18th 2006
Firstly, congratulations on producing such a massive and comprehensive book. How long have you been working on it?
Relax: We started construction of this book back in 2004. It actually took us 18 months to complete. There were countless sleepless nights.
It all stemmed from a combination of my vision of doing a book on Belmont Tunnel and to Wisk's vision of the entire history. It was like a good mix, it all flowed together.
Wisk: Thank you. The first volume took around 18 months to complete.
Why did you decide to do it as four volumes, rather than just condense it into one book?
Relax: As you stated, Europe and the world know of New York Graffiti history. Of course, we all know that's where it originated. But many do not know that we have a history that stems back to the early 80's and continued to blossom to the present day. Where as in New York, the graff scene faded for a little due to the subways getting the buff.
There is so much graff history in Los Angeles, that it requires 4 volumes in order to document the complete history.
Wisk: The decision was made to do four volumes ( on the different era's ) instead of one because Relax and I understood that the History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art could not be documented enough in just one volume. In fact the project commanded a complete thoroughness that the global graffiti community has never seen.
When can we expect to see Volume 2 out, and what period of time will it cover?
Relax: Volume 2 will cover 1989-1994 and will be out in early 2007. Volume 3 (1995-1999) and Volume 4 (2000-2006) will follow.
Wisk: You can expect to see Volume 2 in the first quarter of 2007 covering 1989-1994.
Will we be seeing different artists in each of the four volumes?
Relax: Yes, we will spotlight all Los Angeles artists that made some type of impact within their respective era. All of the heavy hitters from the eras will be included.
Wisk: Yes indeed the global graffiti community will be reading experiences from the different era's writers and seen images that will support the history.
I liked the idea of having the writers' stories. How hard was it to track down some of these guys? I guess there must have been a lot of the old school writers who are no longer painting, or who moved away from LA that you lost touch with?
Relax: It was very hard at times. You always hear of a new book being put together, but it usually never comes out. Luckily, we are respected among the writers and are granted the trust and access to these exclusive interviews (Experiences). There were many writers that were tracked down by detective methods.
All of these writers were interviewed digitally - basically similar to a new reporter without the questions. All we did was guide them by reminding them of past occurenece. They did all of the talking. Our job was to transcribe it.
Wisk: It was defiantly a challenge tracking down the writers from this era but I feel that because Relax and I were writers ourselves it was easier to find and convince the writers to not only un-lock the dusty tombs of images but to also make them feel comfortable enough to talk.
There seemed to be quite a lot of pictures of high quality recent work; how much of these guys are still writing today?
Relax: Maybe 20% of the writers from the first era still paint in some method. The "Experiences" section is the only section that contains photos of writers work outside of the 83-88 era. We wanted to show a progression with the writer and what they have accomplished with their writing careers. All of the other sections are dedicated to 83-88.
Wisk: It was not surprising at all to see these grown up family men still painting after all these years. A lot of old school crews made comebacks for their 20 year anniversaries which meant that a lot of phone calls were made to writers not found initially to be found and documented for the project.
Over here in Europe we're more familiar with the old school New York graffiti, mostly thanks to Subway Art, Spraycan Art, Style Wars, etc. Do you see this book as putting LA graffiti on the map internationally in the same way as Subway Art did for NY back in the 80s?
Relax: No doubt. We feel that this is the first time in graff history that a book of this caliber (regardless of the location) has been released by actual graffiti artists, as well as published it. Los Angeles has always influenced the entire world. You can go to New York now and see so much of Los Angeles influences in that city. I have two homies from my crew LOD that are putting in mad work in New York. People don't understand that we have never stopped in our progression and style that has made us trend setters.
Wisk: This project will not only put L.A. on the map but will also explain the phenom of why a graffiti writer writes graffiti art
How can people get a hold of a copy of the book?
Relax: You can go to amazon.com or our web site www.thehistoryoflosangelesgraffitiart.com and order the book. Unfortunately the shipping costs maybe a little steep for overseas. We are working on distribution to Europe.
Wisk: Our book can be found not only on our website but various selected graffiti shops around L.A. and very soon the west coast, the east coast, and major cities in the U.S. The world will have plenty of copies to purchase in the very near future as well as the opportunity to get their books signed by Relax and I. Oh yeah the book can also be purchased on Amazon.com.
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