There is a stark difference between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the two major cities of California and a lot of it comes down to one simple thing: size. San Francisco is tiny and packs a punch within a mere 49 square miles whereas Los Angeles is sprawling and larger than life in its luminous movie billboards, the glamour of Rodeo drive and the majestic mansions of Beverly Hills. Another very obvious, if not tangible difference is in the culture of the two cities which are as disparate as chalk and cheese. This is amply reflected in LA murals which unlike San Francisco, are tucked away in different nooks and corners in the city unlike the heavily crowded mural scene in San Francisco neighborhoods such as Mission and Haight. Barring the downtown art district (and in retrospect, the Beverly Boulevard), you might drive for miles without seeing murals/street art and suddenly stumble upon something beautiful in an empty parking lot. Unlike SF murals which have cultural, social or political themes, LA murals show the grit of LA streets and allude to the thriving gang-culture symbolically via apparel, tattoos and jewelry. In recent years, the city has seen a fair share of invited and resident artists taking to the walls with their brushes for commissioned art pieces. in other words, LA murals are stoic, way more boxed up and representative of their “hoods” than SF or NYC murals and often do not exist to drive home a message, but are surreptitiously adorned with undercurrents of LA pride and what it is to live life on the streets of LA, which you need to decipher by the gritty, bold style of LA murals. Also, unlike SF which has done a good job of preserving the sanctity of murals. LA murals are often defaced by indiscriminate tagging, gang tussle over space to establish dominance and whitewashing by gentrification. We got a look of the LA murals in the downtown art (read this excellent DTLA walking tour to get to know more about LA’s downtown) district via the LA Graffiti and Mural tour ($12/person) and our guide, a street artist himself, explained a lot of the backstories of these murals and other street art as we walked several blocks for 2 hours. The tour, though highly recommended, was a bit of a wash for the precise reasons of gentrification that has wiped off many a beautiful piece of work from the walls (what a shame) to give way for bland, grey stoic buildings with newly made windows and doors eating into the wall space. As a result, a lot of the LA murals photos shown on the tour website no longer existed during the tour, thanks to the fleeting nature of this art. Apart from these we did chase a few other murals in the city (read further below for more info) and were happy to get a glimpse into the LA murals/ art scene on our short visit (read this guide to must see things in LA on short trip). If you are looking for that perfect LA itinerary, look no further than this list of 20 must do attractions in Los Angeles and the top 10 things to do in LA over 5 days.
A great source of LA murals is the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (which seems pretty up to date). The other one is this website, which led us to Colette Miller’s famous angel wings and the “love” wall. Finally, we found a bunch of murals on the Abbott Kinney Blvd near Venice beach (off the touristy boardwalk) as shown below. In retrospect, we missed a treasure trove of murals at Beverly boulevard (see here), which gives us another reason to revisit LA!
Hope you enjoyed the LA murals featured on this post. Murals/street art conform to the non-conformity in the art scene and are the guerrilla movement in art to challenge the status quo of art being for the elite few. What this means is that they are also vulnerable, being in public places, and ephemeral and thus can be preserved only through our clicks. The LA murals/ art scene, much like the desert flower, is thriving in parts amidst the grit and violence and is worth checking out to get a feel of the city, its culture and its heritage. If you are looking for more LA inspiration, read this guide to 9 best places to eat in LA. For more mural fix, read my post on Austin murals.