Art Fly Rachel Gorman is back with a report from this weekend in Central City.
Last Saturday marked the opening of “SURVIVE,” a one-night-only exhibition in Central City that celebrated the histories of six emerging street artists. I stopped by, curious to see how they would take advantage of the once-abandoned warehouse on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and found myself in the midst of a pretty happening party.
Inside the industrial event space, beyond the crowd, the DJ, and the Parasite DIY skatepark merchandise (sold to support future public park renovations) were 36 paintings by the members of Last To Survive, a Los Angeles-based crew. True to their name, the members of Last To Survive showed work that seemed to be both a boast and a lament.
In his sorrowful series, Siner expressed grief over the untimely and violent deaths of two past crew members. With grey and white graffiti-style lettering, he paid tribute through text, imbuing each letter with an urgency that seemed to me Wild Style meets Guernica. While Kyle Thomas’ image of a shark chewing on a human arm that is simultaneously stabbing it in the face was an extreme display of fearlessness against all odds.
Even when not directly related to grief or joy, the works in “SURVIVE” hovered in the transition between those states of being. Religious revelation was the center of Dreye’s Spirit, 2013, a triptych of symbol-stuffed canvases that depict the artist receiving spiritual messages from priestly figures conjured with Keith Haring-like outlines. Hallucinations and illusion were further explored by Fishe, and Zes’ untitled works were the products of meditative experiences—his chunky, abstract explosions acting as meditation mandalas as he alters his own spiritual state.
The art on display wasn’t the only aspect of "SURVIVE" to deal with transformation. Crew member and “SURVIVE” curator James Riley explained to me that “for the last 15 to 20 years, [the artists have] been through hell and high water together” and credited their tenacity with allowing them to create what he calls a “groundbreaking style of street art” in LA. Now famous for their style’s deliberate drips, intentional awkwardness, and gritty textures, Last To Survive are moving from the street into the art market with canvas-based shows. Nevertheless their motto seems to remain: create beauty where once there was blight.