Zes on His Journey From Graffiti to the Gallery| LA WEEKLY

May 02 2012 . 09:10am

 

 

By Shelley Leopold

Zes, aka Zeser, aka Zes AWR/MSK, is a Los Angeles graffiti artist with a feral stare that you might only notice in serial killers or creative geniuses. He’s been one of L.A.’s most prolific taggers for many years. If you look up every now and again, you may have noticed his burners in back alleys or on the ledges of buildings in Echo Park, but until very recently, you wouldn’t see his work in a gallery. And, if he had had his way, you weren’t going to.

It took many years of battling the obsessive-compulsive need to fit his name onto inaccessible surfaces (tops of buildings, viaducts, or retaining walls) and the inner demons that go along with that mindset for Zes the graffiti artist to become Zes the gallery artist. Recently, he has been proving to contemporary art audiences that he’s got chops to hang out inside, and to our surprise, he’s looking forward to doing more. “There were other things going on in my life, besides me focusing in on my art and my talent,” explains Zes. “Now I’ve put aside all those other things that were going on and I feel like good things are coming.”

Currently at Morgan Spurlock’s “New Blood” Show at Thinkspace, Zes is showing work alongside that of another of the distinguished AWR/MSK graffiti crew, artist/activist Saber. Saber chose Zes as his “protégé” for the show in keeping with its mentor-protégé theme. “Zes has one of the most unique and aggressive styles out there,” says Saber. “He has been one of my favorite painters for many years now. On the street Zes has pushed boundaries and limits that will never be matched. His abstract canvas work is beautiful.”

Zes, who still prefers not to reveal his face or his real name, made his art gallery debut in February at Known Gallery on Fairfax, the gleaming white cube of a space that showcases up and coming talent, usually alongside already established artists. Zes’ “Excavated Revelations” shared the bill with Retna, a current art world superstar who debuted some new lithographs — pensive work that is much smaller in scale and detail than his usual murals. Zes credits Retna as an early influence, which may explain their similarly textured styles. “I think when it comes to influence, we grew up as part of the same crew, LTS,” says Zes of L.A.’s Toughest Sport writers, another crew he’s affiliated with. “If you go back in history, if you follow LTS style, you’ll see a lot of that.”

Working with ink rollers of various size, acrylics and even buff paint ( “Palomino Beige,” the color most popular with graffiti cleanup teams), the new Zes work consists of beautifully spontaneous textures and color, controlled only by the uniform panels he chooses to utilize. All his wood panels are the same tall, narrow, 24″ x 60″ dimensions, which provide structure. “Even before I started doing the first painting, I just had a picture in my head for many years and I just went by it,” explains Zes about his all-vertical format. “Actually, you could hang these paintings either horizontally or vertically and they work. That’s how I was making them.

And when it comes to the colors, its really just what’s on hand for me,” Zes continues. “Each piece is its own freestyle. It’s different and interesting because I get to work with tools I haven’t worked with before.”

Zes hides letterforms (like his daughter’s name, Love) within his compositions and actually sets instinctual time limits on how long he thinks each piece should take. He has found he’s still motivated by pressure, but this time there are no cops involved. “Right now, I’m just going for it. It is what it is, like graffiti,” he explains. “In my early years I was just out to prove myself and put a name up. I did it for kids in the neighborhood that didn’t have anything else to look at but gang graffiti. To open their minds to something else.”

Thinkspace presents: “New Blood” Curated by Morgan Spurlock, on view through May 19. 6009 Washington Blvd., Culver City. 310-558-3375, www.thinkspacegallery.com

Read article at: laweekly.com

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How and Nosm | LA Freewalls in Downtown, Los Angeles

February 17 2012 . 02:11pm

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HOW and NOSM paint the LA WEEKLY building in Culver City

February 17 2012 . 10:18am

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Never-Before-Seen Photos of Tupac and Eazy-E From New Book West Coast Hip Hop: A History In Photos | LA Weekly

February 02 2012 . 10:15pm

Michael Miller and Paul Stewart had capped a successful Kickstarter project and planned a digital imprint of their book, a collection of photographs from the golden era of West Coast hip hop, called West Coast Hip Hop: A History In Photos. But the coffee table book garnered enough interest for a hard cover edition and fine art print show, opening this Saturday at Known Gallery.

“I started shooting in 1988, in Paris,” says Miller. “I was actually painting houses and I just happened to meet Peter Lindbergh, the world-renowned fashion photographer. He gave me my first professional camera. I helped him out on a few shoots.” Miller had his first big job with Cacharel, a huge French fashion brand. He shot Linda Evangelista, Karen Mulder, and Elaine Erwin, some of the era’s biggest supermodels.

But getting access to supermodels would prove simple compared to the likes of Tupac Shakur, Cypress Hill and Ice Cube.

However, Miller, being an L.A. native and passionate hip hop fan paired with Stewart, then a street promoter who later would head Def Jam’s west coast branch. The two connected the dots and forged a mutually beneficial working relationship. “The artists had to know you,” Miller explains. “I met DJ Muggs when he just got off the DMC World DJ Championship, the largest in the world. His roommate was DJ Aladdin. This was all before he started Cypress Hill.”

Miller scanned over 3000 images for the book, with only 70 making the cut. Admittedly he included a few photos that were less technically clean than close to his heart. West Coast Hip Hop: A History in Photos includes exclusive stories and images. Many times, he eschewed traditional studio settings for L.A. landscapes; perfect lighting for amazing, pre-Photoshop double exposures. Miller caught The Alkoholiks in a liquor store cooler on Sunset (the cover of 1993’s 21 + Over), Dre and Snoop on the boards for The Chronic, and — wait for it — Eazy-E with a skateboard.

“That image is close to me, because I grew up skateboarding,” explains Miller. “It happens to be a Natas Kaupas deck. Natas gave me that board. I was waiting for Eazy, just skating around and he showed up and he hopped on it for a second. He didn’t actually skate, but it was cool.”

Read the rest of the article by Shelley Leopold at: laweekly.com

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LA WEEKLY | Top 10 Street Art and Graffiti Stories of 2011

December 22 2011 . 11:54pm

Yes, year-end lists. Not even street art is exempt. But hey, 2011 was a banner year for the Los Angeles street art and graffiti communities, as they enjoyed plenty of worldwide attention. LA Weekly put together the ten L.A.-related street art and graffiti stories that we think were most remarkable in 2011.

Read the rest of the article at: laweekly.com

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