About

Many of LA’s most influential graffiti and tattoo artists covered the walls and floors of ESMoA to publicly launch their 21st century encounter with an artistic tradition: The Getty Graffiti Black Book. In 2013 more than 150 of LA’s leading graffiti artists responded to a 16th century manuscript from the vaults of the Getty Research Institute called a liber amicorum (book of friends) by contributing works on paper to be bound into a single book and created the Getty Graffiti Black Book. Street artists have used black books for decades to create a visual memory of drafts and to serve as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas. The extraordinary competition that occasionally arises among such artists can also lead to respect as rivals invite each other to “hit” their black books with original works. The contributing artists decided to give the Getty Black Book the title, LA Liber Amicorum, to capture the spirit of its transformation of rival ‘writing-crews’ into a Los Angeles Book of Friends ESMoA and the Getty Research Institute invited Getty Black Book artists Axis, Cre8, Defer, Eyeone, Fishe, and Miner to co-curate those crews of creative friends from the LA graffiti art community and turn the art laboratory of ESMoA into an open black book. Graffiti and tattoo artists transformed the space into a cathedral of urban art for the first presentation of the LA Liber Amicorum to the public with SCRATCH. Graffito is old Italian slang for “a little mark,” and graphein in Ancient Greek meant “scratch, draw, paint” long before it meant “to write.” Graffiti artists craft letterforms, draft perspective, and merge line, color, and form with the same techniques employed by Renaissance masters like Albrecht Dürer. The first edition of Dürer’s landmark book on perspective was just one of the many rare books that the artists viewed at the Getty Research Institute in the process of creating the LA Liber Amicorum. Some of those jewels in the history of calligraphy, engraving, and emblematic symbolism from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, as well as sixteenth-century painted friendship-books that inspired the project, will be installed in the space surrounded by the graffitiwriters’ art. iPads were mounted, so visitors could ‘e-flip’ through the books and not only share the artists’ own creative experience and response to the impact of viewing these rare books, but also continually co-curate the space by choosing which page-openings would have been in dialogue with the art on the walls and floor. The SCRATCH art experience was curated by GRI Rare Books Curator, David Brafman.