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Crewest Gallery celebrates decade of graffiti art and LA culture

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012, at 05:10PM

A mural by Man One outside of the Crewest Gallery on Winston Street.

The Crewest Gallery is celebrating 10 years of showcasing graffiti artists and Los Angeles culture with a new exhibit in Downtown this month.

Man One, artist and gallery director, said "Mission Accomplished" is a way of looking back at how much exposure and acceptance street artists have received over the past decade.

"We played a big role in making this an acceptable art form within the gallery circuit," Man One said. "Ten years ago there was no spaces available to show this type of work."

There are about 60 pieces on display in the gallery, with about 80 percent of the work done by L.A. artists -- all bringing their own unique take on graffiti art. There are paintings, drawings, photography and sculptures.

I knew for this one I wanted as broad a spectrum as possible, he said.

Man One said he chose the artists based on one of two things: he either grew up with them and wanted to get their name out to the public, or he respected their work from afar and wanted to bring them out to L.A. for increased exposure.

In 2002, Man One was offered a chance to distribute Belton spray paint from Germany. With the opportunity, he and a partner, Harry Reynolds, opened a small 700-square-foot shop in Alhambra that doubled as a gallery.

"None of the traditional galleries would really look at graffiti as a viable art form," he said. "I'm just gonna show graffiti, because no one else is giving graffiti artists a shot."

After four years of establishing connections and a large customer base, Man One and Reynolds moved to Downtown for a larger space and to be more centralized within L.A.

Man One said he's found that while the spray paint is what brought in the customers at their original space, the art is what makes the most money in their Downtown location.

With the growing acceptance of graffiti art in mainstream culture, Man One sees contradictions in its popularity.

You still have young kids who are getting arrested and charged with felonies for trying to emulate the people they look up to, he said. As the art form becomes even more popular, he hopes that eventually there will be schools or workshops that will allow youth to get involved with graffiti without fear of being arrested.

Man One is looking ahead to what the gallery's future is, and sees this as an opportunity to showcase L.A. artists internationally.

There's so much interest in L.A. art that now is the time to start showing it to people around the world, he said.

With events lined up in Germany and a show planned for the United Kingdom in 2013, Man One said the popularity of graffiti art overseas has much to do with the endless subcultures Los Angeles is known for.

"You've got car culture, gang culture, graffiti culture, skate culture" and people internationally just see L.A. as a fantasy, he said. That's what makes L.A. artists so sought after, he said.

Beginning with the murals at Olvera Street, "we have a whole different history that we draw from," he said.

"Mission Accomplished" ends on May 27. There will be a closing party on the 26th.

Crewest Gallery is located at 110 Winston St.


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