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The Story Of A City Through The Art Of Graffiti




The 7th Street Bridge, which crosses the Los Angeles River, covered by graffiti in Los Angeles, California.
The 7th Street Bridge, which crosses the Los Angeles River, covered by graffiti in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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There’s a hidden history of Los Angeles that can be found under the city’s bridges, within tunnels, and on building walls.

The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti by Susan A. Phillips
The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti by Susan A. Phillips
Yale University Press, 2019/Susan A. Phillips

Author and urban ethnographer Susan Phillips puts together an archive of images and historical analysis in her book The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti (Yale University Press, 2019) that looks into the untold history of Los Angeles through a century’s worth of graffiti art. Graffiti can be found all throughout the LA area and reveal a deeper history of the city than what meets the eye. The earliest forms of graffiti date back to ancient times of cave people painting their handprints over cave walls. In its modern-day form, graffiti has evolved to become an art, documenting people’s stories and serving as a form of expression for sociopolitical and economic struggle. Phillips’ book finds that much of the city’s graffiti was created by marginalized groups who used the art as a form of communication, expression and protest.

Today on AirTalk, we sit down with Phillips and discuss how graffiti is embedded in the LA culture and presents the city’s history from new perspectives that are often ignored or forgotten.

With guest host Kyle Stokes

Guest:

Susan A. Phillips, professor of environmental analysis at Pitzer College; she is the author of “The City Beneath: A Century Of Los Angeles Graffiti” (Yale University Press, 2019)