Where to Find the Best Street Art Los Angeles Has to Offer
by Erica Garza
Home to some of the most creative people in the world, Los Angeles doesn’t reserve its art for the screen — it’s also on the walls and infrastructure all around the city. LA street art is as diverse as its residents, spanning mediums and neighborhoods while weaving community and history together across the vast city limits. Alongside murals from guerilla artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s is a space-age sculpture downtown, work by world-famous artists Shepard Fairey and Banksy, a 15-foot-tall chandelier and more. Here's a round up the 10 best places to encounter LA street art.
“America Tropical” by David Alfaro Siqueiros [Downtown]
125 Paseo De La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Perched atop historic Olvera Street, this mural by the Mexican-born Siqueiros was originally painted in 1932 on the Italian Hall at El Pueblo but was whitewashed not long after. In 2012, the city of LA and The Getty Conservation Institute restored the mural, and it is now the only mural by the artist in the United States still in its original location. The mural depicts a Mexican Indian crucified beneath an American eagle with two sharpshooters taking aim at the eagle from nearby, a radical commentary on American imperialism in Latin America that led to the whitewashing.
“Girl on a Swing” by Banksy [Downtown]
9th and Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Notorious for his anonymity, Banksy mysteriously produced “Girl on a Swing” in a downtown parking lot after “Exit Through the Gift Shop” premiered in LA in 2010. Amid the urban sprawl surrounding it, the mural reminds the city of how few green spaces exist for children in a city like LA.
“Peace Elephant” by Shepard Fairey [West Hollywood]
715 North San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Measuring 70 by 160 feet, the commissioned “Peace Elephant” mural dominates a huge wall of the West Hollywood Library and was the largest painted mural Fairey ever completed. When asked why he chose to depict an elephant, he told The Hollywood Reporter that it resonated with the core values of the city: peace, freedom, creativity, and tolerance. Murals by RETNA and Kenny Scharf can also be seen on the walls of the library.
Triforium Sculpture by Joseph Young [Downtown]
Fletcher Bowron Square, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Though it was mocked at its unveiling in the 1970s, the space-age Triforium sculpture has recently drawn crowds at its location in Fletcher Bowron Square. Thanks to public campaigns, the piece has been outfitted with lights and now features sound, leading to an event series called Triforium Fridays, which has brought newfound attention to the work.
“Skid Row Mural” by Local Residents [Skid Row]
East 5th Street & San Julian Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Nestled between Fifth and Sixth streets on San Julian, this mural portrays the borders of Skid Row — spanning 50 blocks — and is the first to be planned, created and paid for entirely by residents of the neighborhood without any help or funding from nonprofits.
“Mural Mile” [Pacoima]
13161 Van Nuys Boulevard, Pacoima, CA 91331
A stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard between San Fernando Road and Foothill Boulevard reflects the heart of Pacoima with its abundance of murals by artists that include Levi Ponce, his father Hector, Kristy Sandoval and Ramiro “Rah” Hernandez. You see Latino heroes that range from Frida Kahlo to Danny Trejo here.
"Los Angeles Opens Its Heart of Compassion" by Cliff Garten [Koreatown]
3150 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Sitting outside the luxury apartment building dubbed The Vermont, this 15-foot high by 10-foot wide chandelier features illuminated lotus flower shapes made of laser-cut aluminum. The lotus is a symbol of enlightenment in Korean culture and was chosen as a sign of respect for the surrounding community.
“Watts Towers” by Simon Rodia [Watts]
1761-1765 East 107th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90002
Consisting of 17 sculptures constructed of structural steel and covered with mortar, Watts Towers was built by Italian artist Simon Rodia alone over a period of 34 years using only simple tools. A construction worker by day and artist by night, Rodia decorated his towers with an intricate mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery, and tile.
“Luminaries of Pantheism” by Levi Ponce [Venice]
Ocean Front Walk and South Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA 90291
This Venice mural pays tribute to some of the world’s greatest thinkers, including Albert Einstein, W.E.B. Dubois, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sagan, and others. Perry Rod, founder, and Chairman of The Paradise Project, is responsible for the mural’s conception, while Levi Ponce of Mural Mile fame, produced the artwork.
Mural by Christina Angelina and Fanakapan [Arts District]
966 East 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Some of the Arts District’s most captivating murals are on 4th Street, and this collaboration by Venice-based artist Christina Angelina (aka Starfighter) and British artist Fanakapan is one of the most captivating. Completed in 2017, the mural depicts two people caught in an intimate moment, one an androgynous chrome figure and the other a feminine profile. Changes in natural lighting throughout the day gives this piece a different feel depending on the time you visit.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in writing from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, The Telegraph, and VICE.