“California Locos” is a group show of contemporary art featuring the work of five artists whose working careers span the last half century in the Los Angeles art world. Born out of the Los Angeles subcultural scenes of surf, skate, rock and street art, the artists make work that is highly individualized and freewheeling. Rather than being grouped as an aesthetic movement, these artists instead, visually represent the larger cultural fabric of the city itself in all its perverse and gritty glory.
Since 1979 Norton Wisdom has collaborated with musical ensembles, spontaneously painting images in response to the energy of the music and moment. His live performances include collaborations with Llyn Foulkes, Big Black, Badal Roy India, Kuan Tet Orchestra Tibet, Nation Bambsuchibet, National Bamboo Orchestra of Bali, Bernard Fowler, Lili Haydn, Flea, George Clinton, Beck, Mike Watt, Rob Wasserman, John Mollo and Dave Navarro, to name a few. His live painting performances have touched off a growing international movement of the same type, which he has been forwarding since the ’70s.
Gary Wong studied under Emerson Woelffer and Matsumi Kanemitsu at Chouinard and was a vital part of the shifting dialogue integral to the formation of West Coast postmodernism and surf/skate/rock culture as we know it today. His visual language is a complex collage-based paint/draw process that often uses photography, and reflects his involvement in music as well as wider social and political concerns. Close friends and influences have included artists as diverse as Rick Griffin, Doug Wheeler and Al Ruppersberg.
Dave Tourjé was born and raised in the culturally eclectic Northeast L.A. of the 1970s and his upbringing amongst the skaters, gangs, and the area’s tribal friction play heavily in his work. Also a musician, Tourjé was a member of the influential L.A. band the Dissidents, playing shows with Camper Van Beethoven, Saccharine Trust, The Minutemen to name a few. Tourjé’s artwork oscillates between high and low, punk and institutional hegemony and was the subject of a one-man exhibition covering 15 years of paintings on acrylic glass at the Riverside Art Museum in 2002. It has been featured at the Oceanside Museum of Art, the Orange County Museum of Art, and Laguna Art Museum. In 1998, Tourjé helped to form the Chouinard Foundation after purchasing the home of Nelbert Chouinard, in order to help restore the lost history of one of the great art schools in the world. The short film about him, “L.A. Aboriginal”, is now entering international film festivals at this writing.
Chaz Bojórquez is known as the godfather of graffiti art and is considered one of the first artists who successfully made the transition from street to gallery. His iconic street image , a stylized skull called “Senor Suerte” (Mr. Luck), has become a seminal icon in graffiti art. Bojorquez’s paintings are in the permanent collection of the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C., the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, and the Orange County Museum of Art. Bojorquez was prominently featured in the renowned Art in the Streets exhibit at MOCA in 2011. Chaz is known as a primary influence on many contemporary graffiti artists such as Saber, Banksy, Shepard Fairey and others.
John Van Hamersveld is known for an enormous catalog of pop images. From his iconic poster for the movie The Endless Summer, to his album cover work for The Beatles (Magical Mystery Tour), Blondie (Eat To The Beat) and the Rolling Stones (Exile On Main Street) to name but a few, Van Hamersveld’s iconic images have had a tremendous impact on popular culture and fashion from the early 60s to the present, including his influence on street artist Shepard Fairey. Van Hamersveld’s images incorporate a diverse mixture of sub-cultural design elements and formal academic training from both Chouinard and Art Center during the ’60s, drawing off of diverse influences from Lorser Feitelson to his life as an iconic surfer.
Finally, all of the artists in this seminal exhibition rely on an instinctual sense of internal freedom from which they draw again and again in creating their images, and though the work possesses an essential and undeniably “California aesthetic,” ultimately the work is uniquely their own, rigorous and challenging on a multiplicity of levels.
Eve Wood | Art Writer