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Los Angeles Graffiti

Los Angeles Graffiti cover By Roger Gastman & Sonja Teri,
Mark Batty Publishing, 128 pp, £16.95, $27.95

Rating: 6/10
Reviewer: Perspicacious Critic (November 5, 2007)
Los Angeles Graffiti Can2 page spread Los Angeles Graffiti page spread

"Los Angeles Graffiti" is a book that doesn't try to do anything clever to grab your attention. There are no attempts at fancy design, foldouts or special printing techniques. The cover doesn't scream, "check ME out" from a bookshelf. And it won't win any major design awards.

Save for a prologue and Q&A, "Los Angeles Graffiti" is essentially a straight-up photo album full of -- guess what? -- Los Angeles graffiti.

In letting the styles speak for themselves, the photo album approach works. This is supported by listing the photo and artist credits in the back of the book, which allows for a clutter-free presentation of the graffiti. And authors Roger Gastman and Sonja Teri were wise in framing some of the images with a thick, black border to further appreciate the details that go into some of these elaborate spray paintings.

But in failing to explain what makes Angelenos graffiti so "LA," the bare-bones photo album approach falls short. For example, you could point out that Tlok's flourishes and skulls reflect LA's Latino gang culture of low-riding cars and full-body tattoos. And Sever's wavy lettering and splashy drips could be read as echoing wavy palm trees and splashy LA beaches. (OK, feel free to call bullshit on the latter description but you get the idea.)

Taken as a tool of enlightenment, you'll be less likely to revisit the book in a year's time as you would with Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper's "Subway Art" or Nicholas Ganz's "Graffiti World," both of which sprinkle colourful anecdotes, descriptions and/or artist bios among the work. But taken as a photo album, "Los Angles Graffiti" does, at least, provide a colourful documentation on the continually thriving and ever-evolving graffiti art movement on America's West Coast.

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