Photos by Brian Addison.
Just as Mayor Robert Garcia finished posing with LA-based graffiti guru and artist Jaime “Vyal” Reyes (aka VYAL ONE) to take a picture in front of the artist’s recently completed mural in DTLB, it became clear that Long Beach’s perception of street art has officially steered away from being solely considered tagging and has moved into the idea that it indeed an art worth supporting.
Even more, there is no question that DTLB is becoming one of the region’s biggest outdoor museums. (Yes, even more than DTLA.)
Firstly, while we will not downsize the impact of Pow! Wow! (which we’ll get into in a bit), let’s start with the pre-Pow! Wow! impact of DTLB becoming a home for influential contemporary muralists and artists.
One block over from of VYAL’s new mural, sits Brazilian artist Flip’s mural on the south wall of MADhaus. Mainly a surrealistic take on Asian culture and influences, the piece also definitively highlights the influence of the pixação graffiti that pervaded Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo during the 60s and eventually had risen from the dead during the 80s after the art form became nothing but a specter during the 70s.
And directly across the small empty lot known as A LOT on Pine Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets, facing opposite VYAL’s new mural? There sits a mural created a triad of masters: Dabs Myla, Craola and Tyke Witness.
Speaking of Dabs Myla—the Australian graffiti couple who made LA their home—have yet another DTLB mural off of the west side of Linden Avenue between 1st and Broadway, completed in 2012 after the pair also did a live mural at that year’s AGENDA show at the Convention Center.
While we’re in the East Village, take a small jump one street down and you’ll find Belgian artist Chase’s mural [him in action pictured below] that he actually painted over his old mural. Found on Alamo Court, the mural beneath it was Chase’s panopticon-like eyes in varying shapes, sizes, and colors; his newer piece is one that is more focused: a heart-shaped pair of hands with blood-red eyes filled inside, a nod to the gang war between the Blood and Crips that riddled LA during the 90s.
And literally across the street in the same alley? A mural by Long Beach-based artist Zach Howard (who also happened to do the awesome Long Beach-centric mural inside DLTB’s Renaissance lobby, complete with hints of current and past Long Beach icons from The Queen Mary to the old Nu-Pike amusement area to bikes). Who doesn’t like a swimming elephant?
This is just a small dabble of Long Beach’s growing collection of street art.
All free. All accessible.
And then came Pow! Wow! Long Beach.
Nearly six years ago in the warehouse-filled Kaka’ako district of Honolulu, a young Jasper Wong saw an incredible opportunity to create a spectacle that harkened more to the power of humans rather than the excessiveness of human partying. Coachella, FYF, and SXSW he was not seeking. He was creating what would soon become a phenomenon that the art world could not ignore. This is POW! WOW!
Eschewing the antics driven by all-too-pop-driven events where the partying is slowly eclipsing the art, Wong wanted to bring together his beyond cool friends as “an excuse to make an area better with art.” We are talking talented street artists that are beyond respected in their own right, from James Jean to Ekundayo, Wu Yue to Will Barras.
And thanks to a partnership with Long Beach’s interTrend, he brought it to Long Beach—specifically DTLB.
James Jean and Tristan Eaton? They share the north wall of the Varden Hotel on Pacific between 3rd and 4th Streets, of which Eaton’s mural is a wonderfully colorful homage to the iconic 1937 photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, depicting a group of American black men and women waiting for food and relief in Kentucky after a flood disaster.
“The billboard behind them makes this photograph an ironic symbol of inequality in America,” Eaton wrote. “Unfortunately, this still resonates today. From Wall Street to your local Police Department, there is still major prejudice and obscene injustice towards minorities and people of lower income. They party on the top while we sweat on the bottom. I hope my mural captures some of the falsehoods of the American Dream and the reality of the American nightmare.”
Low Bros and Jeff Soto? Their work—spanning the same wall but not sharing directly—sit along Seaside Way underneath an overpass at the entrance to the Convention Center.
LA-based Benjie Escobar’s floating pizza and sushi rolls can be found on the backside of the now-completed Edison residential tower.
Aaron De La Cruz painted the entire ground of Park(d) Plaza in the East Village on 4th between Elm & Linden (and introduced colors outside of the plaza’s iconic yellow) while across the street to the south, in Frontenac Court, sits Bumblebee’s mural. On the west wall of Berlin/Fingerprints Music, a skater kid with his pup looks into the sunset, complete with a Long Beach State lid. Joining the pairing of dudes is French provocateur and Lady of the Graffiti Fafi, whose flower’n’cutout mural on the north side of 4th on the same block offers a different aspect of street art—oh wait, never mind, it was taken down because someone didn’t get it.
Long Beach’s own Jeff McMillan’s mural can be found at the ground floor entrance to the Hyatt Regency off of Pine Avenue.
And Jasper Wong himself? He paired with Microsoft to do his own mural on the west wall of the ArtX building at 3rd & Elm.
With VYAL’s work now up [pictured above]—his signature mystical eyes in alternating hues of purple, green, yellow, and blue—there is no question that DTLB is doing what DTLA can’t: providing easy space to work with a community that is enormously supportive of it.
Oh, and Pow! Wow! Long Beach Part II? It’s coming.
Cheers to the DTLB Outdoor Museum.