Los Angeles

Cristian "SMEAR" Gheorghiu: My SoCal Art History

The history of art in Southern California isn't linear; it is a fluid, multi-angled continuum made from the personal experiences of many artists from myriad backgrounds. So to trace the trajectory of Southern California art, Artbound is creating a collective timeline comprised of the decisive events that shaped artists' creative development. We hope that in the space between these personal histories, an impressionistic view of Southern California's art history will come into focus.

Today we talk to Los Angeles artist Cristian "SMEAR" Gheorghiu.

1. The graffiti writer Chaka's highly publicized arrest in 1991

The headlines that it garnered and the amount of airtime it received on the evening news really captured the imagination of a lot of the youth in Los Angeles, giving them that nudge to pick up the spray can and try to make a name for themselves on the streets.

Chaka LOD Los Angeles Graffiti Art | Image courtesy Flickr user anarchosyn.

2. The publication of Martha Cooper's seminal graff book Subway Art in 1984

The book really lit the fuse to the graffiti movement. It was a template that a lot of early LA writers referred to. It was an invaluable resource where one could see loads of graff and graff styles before the internet gave everybody access to tons of graffiti images.


Martha Cooper | Image courtesy of Flickr user jive667.



Subway Art at the 20x200 Collectors Confab at Chronicle Books - 38 | Image courtesy of Flickr user Steve Rhodes.

3. Edward Seymour's 1949 invention of the spray paint can

Without this staple of the graffiti artist's trade it would of been near impossible for the urban art movement to reach the heights that it has now attained.


Dan Kitchener & his Spray-Can | Image courtesy of Flickr user urbanartcore.eu.

4. Cholo writing

Everybody seems to think that graffiti writing started in Philadelphia/ New York in the late 60s and early 70s. But surprise! Chicano gang graffiti, or cholo writing, has been adorning the walls of Los Angeles barrios since at least the 1940s. Even before the advent of spray paint. It took the east coast kids decades to catch up.


Photos by Gusmano Cesaretti, 1975 -- from the book on Cholo graffiti, "Street Writing." | Image courtesy of Flickr user C-Monster.

5. Warhol's first exhibition in an art gallery came in 1962 at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles

He displayed his canvases of Campbell's soup, one canvas for each of the 32 types of Campbell's soup. He sold all the paintings as a set for a $1000. LA gave him his first shot.


Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans with viewer | Image courtesy of Flickr user profzucker.


Andy Warhol by Gary Leonard | Image courtesy of LAPL.

6. The art collective ASCO which consisted of Gronk, Harry Gamboa Jr., Willie Herron and Patssi Valdez

ASCO was active from 1972-1987 and left an impact on the LA art world with their Dada style pranks and swagger. True Los Angeles originals.

Artist Gronk | Image courtesy of LAPL.



LACMA Asco | Image courtesy of Flickr user Katie Grayot.

7. The stencil word on the streets of Los Angeles by Chaz Bojorquez

Chaz was stenciling his skull figure, Señor Suerte, in the 1970s long before Blek le Rat used the method in the 80s and way before Banksy started to stencil after seeing Blek le Rat's work. He is a big influence on a lot of Los Angeles artists.


'Tres Placas' by Chaz Bojorquez, from L.A. | Image courtesy of Flickr user C-Monster.

8. The Basquiat exhibit at MOCA in 2005

This exhibit has a major influence on me personally...it helped me make the leap from just marking up the streets to actually picking up the brushes and hitting the canvas. The exhibit floored me. I saw it six times. I wish it was a permanent exhibit.


Art in the Streets at MOCA-LA | Image courtesy of Flickr user fresh888.

9. The graffiti artist Ayer from the KOG and LTS crews

His brazen way of getting risky spots in the mid to late 1990s and his amazing graffiti style forever changed the landscape of Los Angeles graffiti. His influence is immense! So sad that he was taken away from us at such a young age.


Lokus KOG LTS LosAngeles Graffiti Art | Image courtesy of Flickr user anarchosyn.

10. The COI (Cause Of Insanity) graffiti crew

This crew was another personal influence. They had all the bases covered, they had guys that tagged on everything like Oiler and Dcline. But they also had amazing piecers like Vyal and Man One, who are both still active and are even more amazing now! The 1990s belonged to the COI crew. Suet from COI got me into graffiti, and gave me the name SMEAR. Man One opened the first street art gallery (Crewest gallery) in the city of Los Angeles 10 years ago...and it is still going strong.


ManOne COI LosAngeles Graffiti Art | Image courtesy of Flickr user anarchosyn.

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About the Author

Cristian Gheorghiu's (aka SMEAR) visceral, highly personal style of painting emulates the messy workings of the total-information age, layering forms and images with powerful, slashing brush strokes of rhythmic, unifying admixture...
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