Los Angeles has long been known for its graffiti artists. Names like Shepard Fairey, JR, and Morley have been making the streets of LA more colorful and culturally charged, alongside countless street artists who have emblazoned their personal tags to the sides of buildings across the city. One artists that has been tagging LA for more than four decades is Charles (Chaz) Bojórquez, who is considered one of the originators of the “graffiti movement.”
Often perceived as one of the more provocative art forms, graffiti was a fringe genre until graffiti artists started gaining commercial appeal in the early 1980s. Bojórquez is one of the artists that risked prison time and stigmatization from the greater arts community in his earliest urban art endeavors. According to the National Hispanic Cultural Center, “Bojórquez began his personal involvement with graffiti art during the late 1960s working with the placa, the unique script or markings that symbolize territory or neighborhood allegiance. Being more interested in the placa script for its own sake and not its relationship to a gang presence, he stylized the text and experimented with new imagery and iconography,” of Bojórquez’s early influence.
A major player in the Chicano urban arts movement, Bojórquez’s career as an artist began with zigzag tagging on neighborhood fences and eventually evolved into full-blown mural creation and gallery shows. After solidifying his reputation as a genuine talent in the street art genre, Bojórquez began to focus more on canvas and commercial endeavors. He has worked with some of the biggest companies like Disney, Vans, Converse and huge skateboard companies, a testament to his talent.
“When I was tagging in the streets,” says Bojórquez, “I never thought that I would ever be designing products with my graffiti letters. You would think that doesn’t fit the free spirit of graffiti or the artist life, but it does. It puts my work in the context of culture,” of his collaborations with major companies.
Bojórquez was first attracted to the magic and mystery around the culture of West Coast Cholo, or Mexican style, graffiti that he saw growing up in northeast LA. His now legendary character is “Senor Suerte,” a stylized skull inspired by the Dia de los Muertos skull from the Mexican folklore and cult of the Holy Death. Bojórquez was one of the first artists to mix typographical characters and styles with psychedelic styles with Chinese calligraphy to create an aesthetic punch.
Marco Klefisch and Alberto Scabbia have curated documentation on the 40 year artistic journey of the graffiti legend.
Image: via www.chazbojorquez.com.