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Street Art springs from 17th-century texts at Getty show in El Segundo

Dozens of artist converged at the El Segundo gallery to fill the space with street art from across the city.
Dozens of artist converged at the El Segundo gallery to fill the space with street art from across the city.
Dorian Merina / KPCC

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What do L.A.'s top graffiti artists have in common with a rare, 17th-century text found in the Getty's rare book collection?

As it turns out, plenty. And that's the focus of a current show from the Getty Institute that features new work from graffiti and tattoo artists across Los Angeles. It all comes together at the El Segundo Museum of Art.

"Los Angeles has the best light in the world and the best darkness in the world, and you can see that reflected in the way the artists approach the work," said David Brafman, rare books curator of the Getty Research Institute.

The show draws on the Getty's rare book archives, including a 17th-century manuscript called Liber Amicorum, or Book of Friends, that to Brafman shares a theme with current-day "black books," in which artists collect samples of work or tags from fellow artists.

Graffiti artist Jose Reza, also known as Prime, was tapped to come up with the logo for the Getty's "black book."

A page from the L.A. Liber Amicorum, or Book of Friends, that inspired the show at El Segundo's ESMoA. Photo credit: Getty Research Institute.

"I really wanted to put a new face on L.A., a more classier face, more clean," said Reza, also a noted tattoo artist who hails from the Pico-Union area of Los Angeles.

He said he went through 50-80 versions of the logo in a two-day spurt of creativity, until he settled on the final design.

"It just felt right," he said. "It flowed in just about the right temperature."

The show in El Segundo is an effort to bring that "black book" to a gallery, taking advantage of an 80-foot-by-27-foot space as the primary canvas.

"It's basically a big white rectangle that was covered over by plywood from head to toe for the artists to paint, draw, write," said Brafman. "We want to explode the Getty black book. We want to explode it on the wall."

In just over two weeks, 57 artists converged at the El Segundo space to create the overlapping artwork.

"Graffiti is not only an individual thing," said Gaijin Fujita, an artist from Boyle Heights who worked with a team on a side wall. "It can be collaborative and collective and that's the part that I really enjoyed working on in this show."

What: Experience 11: Scratch – Jun 8 until Sept 21, 2014

Where: 208 Main Street, El Segundo, California, 90245, Phone: 424 277 1020

More info

Is there cool street art in your neighborhood? Share with us on Twitter or Instagram @KPCC using the hashtag #LAstreetart. Geotag the photo so we can map it later.