An elderly woman stands to the left. Fiery red hair with mocha eyes. The maze of wrinkles that encases her pale façade are sure signs of wisdom and wit. Further left, there’s a twenty-something gentleman. Stoic and self-effacing, he observes the artwork before him, his brown frame blanketed in tattoos—a blatant indicator of his own love for art. The two are of different cultures, possibly of different socio-economic statuses. But here they are together, admiring the mammoth graffiti mosaic. “This is art,” she extols, waving her nimble finger in the air, for dramatic effect no doubt. The gentleman smirks and walks off. It’s an unlikely juxtaposition, even for a chilly December night in Santa Monica—a quasi-cultural hub for SoCalians. This was the typical scene last Saturday at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica where Los Angeles graffiti pioneer RISK unveiled his series “Twenty-Six” at his first-ever solo show. “The theme, ‘Twenty-Six,’ represents the 26 letters of the alphabet. I’ve also been writing for 26 years and thought it was the perfect theme because I’ve mainly been doing letters,” RISK says, before taking a sip of Budweiser. “I’m known for doing letters; I’ve never done characters. So with 26 letters you can define the world—it’s a celebration of letters, a celebration of me writing 26 years. It was just a perfect mix. I wanted to do a full body of work. Not just a couple canvases, but a whole series of canvases and print, mix media stuff, almost like some sculptures on the wall—the whole deal.” Though he would never admit it, RISK has been putting on a show his entire graf career—whether painting letters in alleyways off La Brea Avenue in ‘82 or “mobbing with friends” around the world tagging foreign capital.
His work ethic and aesthetic are undeniable. Some might even scoff that RISK’s many years are outdated in today’s graffiti scene but, like the times, RISK has adapted to a changing world. “My style has definitely evolved to where it’s fluid now. When I was younger, I would paint with outlines, I don’t anymore. I think, especially with this show, you’ll see the influence of a lot of younger writers. You’ll see that LA is very organic,” he says. “I’m pretty lucky; I’m in a unique situation, I’m the only writer that I know of that has influenced a younger generation that has become so good and they’re in my crew, and in turn, have influenced me. It’s come full circle. I talked to Saber and Revok and they said if it wasn’t for me, it would be no them, and on the same token I still wouldn’t be painting if it wasn’t for them.” The gallery’s white walls are covered with the 26 analogous letters, yet visually diverse pieces of art. The “J” is curvy and loud. The “X” is emboldened, emitting hazy golden light. There is a vintage blue and green lowrider placed perfectly in the center of the warehouse. Its placement is icing on the cake to a stellar show. “My favorite motto—some company had it on top of their door—is: ‘A company that will never know completion.’ I thought that was the dopest thing in the world. I feel like my art career should be like that—to never know completion,” RISK says. “If I don’t paint, I just feel dead. This show has been kicking my ass, and I’ve been telling some people I can’t wait til I wake up and don’t have to paint, but it hit me today, like, ‘Tomorrow, I don’t have to paint.’ I’m like, ‘Fuck, what am I going to do?’” He shrugs, covering his wonder in laughter. The event is a success. Throughout the evening, well over 500 people visit the gallery—most as invited guests, others as art connoisseurs from neighboring exhibits, some even carrying 40 ounces. “This show has already led to a few more shows. I’m working on the same show for New York and England. But like I said earlier, the next body of work I’m doing; it gives me an opportunity to change kind of,” he breaks for a minute to take one last sip of his beer, then continues. “Some of my fine art stuff is going to be mixed media and I think I’ll finally have a way to separate my art from the gallery in the streets without separating my art, so to speak. I’m going to be forced to do the stuff I can’t do in the streets in the gallery. The gallery has been a natural progression; it’s forced me to progress. Where with my subject matter I won’t lose my roots.” The night lingers on as dozens of admirers and onlookers make their way into the gallery, joining the already packed warehouse. Indeed, a cultural milieu of sorts. “I don’t know if I want people to walk away with anything, expect for inspiration. If I have inspired anybody, I’ve succeeded. That’s all I want.” RISK is brimming with confidence. And understandably so. There’s more painting to be done. Nothing is complete.
RISK’s artwork will be on display until Saturday December 20, 2008 @ Track 16 Gallery (Bergamot Station), 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg. C-1, Santa Monica, CA 90404
2 thoughts on “RISK Art Gallery: Without Completion :: An LA graffiti legend, RISK celebrates 26 years of writing with 26 letters”
legit and soon and risk or risky this the real legit from a.r.t and the wanted writters ww what up kid legit and soon the four fathers of graffitti art