ARTINFO cover story | Once Street-Art Rivals, Now Gallery Stars: POSE and KC Ortiz Explain Their Joint L.A. Show

November 22 2011 . 06:52pm


Once Street-Art Rivals, Now Gallery Stars: POSE and KC Ortiz Explain Their Joint L.A. Show

by Roger Gastman

They began on the streets as graffiti rivals, but today are the best of friends. There’s no doubting that POSE and KC Ortiz make a unique pair.

POSE is the ambassador of Chicago’s urban scene, revered for his signature collage style that combines pop culture, graffiti, fairy tales, and hand-painted signage into a vibrant neon palette. KC is an ex-graffiti artist and now an award-winning photojournalist who travels to places such as West Papua and Burma, gaining the trust of the local people and bringing their pictures and stories to a global audience.

Together, POSE and KC’s work reflects the Chicago art scene and the world beyond, and is displayed side-by-side in the just-opened exhibition, “White Wash.” POSE’s work for the show takes on Chicago’s strict buff policy, while KC’s work shedds light on suppressed peoples and cultures. The exhibition opened at Los Angeles’s Known Gallery on November 19 and runs through December 10.  

Roger Gastman is a curator and author specializing in the history of graffiti and street art. Most recently he is the co-author, with Caleb Neeson, of ‘The History of American Graffiti’ (Harper Design, 2010), and co-curator of ‘Art in the Streets’ at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

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23 Questions with RETNA on

April 21 2011 . 04:00am

Name: Marquis Lewis
Age: 32 rotations around the sun
Occupation: Working through my struggles
City/Neighborhood: Mid-City, L.A. to the death

What project are you working on now? MOCA’s "Art in the Streets" exhibition

What’s the last show that you saw? Kehinde Wiley at Roberts & Tilton and Judith Supine at New Image Art Gallery

What’s the last show that surprised you? "Art in the Streets"

Why? Because I had the opportunity to work with all the people that inspire me. Also because Jeffrey has the courage, despite all the trials and tribulations, to say this is the movement and it needs to be recognized.

What’s your favorite place to see art? I’m curious to know if they have any shows in the afterlife.

Do you make a living off your art? Some people might think that. What’s a living now and these days?

What’s your favorite letter, in any alphabet? I like them all.

What is the most exciting public place you’ve ever put your art? The Masonic temple on Wilshire Blvd

What has been your most dramatic run-in with the law? I blocked that out of my memory. Now they call me because they want to hang out. I like that relationship a lot better.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio? My soul

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days? The great people I have around me.

Do you collect anything? People and art

What’s the last artwork you purchased? Several photographs by KC Ortiz — if I could ever achieve the honesty in his photographs in my artwork, I would be a very happy person.

What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery? People get beat down.

What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant? My studio. I used to like the Soho House West Hollywood until they kicked me out. I guess I wasn’t sophisticated enough to hang out there or maybe they didn’t like the L.A. hat I wore every time I walked in there.

Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine? I take the time to go to shows for people that I care about.

What’s the last great book you read? I took mushrooms, does that count?

What work(s) of art do you wish you owned? If I could own some of the ancient temples that would be cool. Are those considered works of art?

What would you do to get it? Fight for it like anyone else.

What international art destination do you most want to visit? I heard there are some interesting things happening in China.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about? That’s a loaded question. I don’t think Known Gallery L.A. is under-appreciated, but more people need to know about it.

Who’s your favorite living artist? I’d have to stay true to my art and say Chaz Bojorquez.

What are your hobbies? I’m a workaholic. I’d say my art takes all of my time.

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