LEE & # 39; s Walls speaks volumes at its first solo show in Los Angeles – L.A. Weekly

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To insinuate that interesting things have happened in the New York studio, graffiti legend LEE (artist Lee Quiñones) is an understatement. Maybe we never know all the details, but the tablets in his latest exhibition – his first solo show in Los Angeles – indicate good times and a constant exploration of the creative process. "If These Walls Could Talk" contains pieces of LEE studio wall, literally pieces of wall that are hung as framed segments, along with paintings, sketch studies and color drawings that date back to 1977.

Quiñones, who became known as LEE, is the creator of the New York graffiti movement. He was a Puerto Rican from the Lower East Side and started painting metro in 1974. He grew into a select group of avant-garde influencers of Wild Style graffiti in an art scene that exploded all over the world. LEE presents it in a different way: "For Instagram there was InstaDammnnn!"

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His family did not have a car and he remembers his mother who showed him the subway first. "She introduced me because of the use of the system at that time." When he not only started driving but also wrote and painted enthusiastically in the train, Quiñones said: "She stood back and sat down on a chair, and then sat down in front of her to see how my career exploded . "

At that time this was not a safe or sanctioned activity and arrest could be the least of the problems of a graffiti artist. & # 39; Mom would say: & # 39; Come home. & # 39; Because I told her, this is what I have to do, ma. This is my calling, I will come home. & # 39;

LEE lovingly remembers how he fell in love with graffiti. "I picked up those cans with the knowledge that they are colorful people, people of color that are so colorful." I like this, I want to be part of this food fight. Let's have a food fight! "

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James GalleryTO EXPAND

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James Gallery

Michael Underwood

As a member of the Fabulous 5 crew, LEE painted more than 100 car murals throughout the New York MTA system. His life was recorded in the feature film from 1983 Wild style, in which he played with fellow writers Lady Pink and Fab Five Freddy. In 1978 he painted his first handball mural, iconic graffiti that has since been destroyed but left an eternal vibration in the New York community.

Switching to a studio practice was not an overnight process for LEE. Funnily enough, his first experience with painting on canvas under the New York City Hall happened in an empty tunnel that had not been used since the 1940s or 50; "That was the only place where I knew I could just start painting and make this strange confrontation.I painted on rolling stock, now I paint on a canvas that would be in someone else's house in a different form, in a different context, "says LEE.

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James GalleryTO EXPAND

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James Gallery

Michael Underwood

He floated through the studio's of friends and had only committed himself to his own studio in the late 1980s. LEE & # 39; s way of cherishing his ideas ultimately brought the process from the path or the donkey and directly to the studio walls, where he selects the thoughts and images he adds to his work. There are two large tablets from LEE & # 39; s studio in the Navy Yard, which he inhabited in the 1990s, with doodles of his son's lengths during the decade he painted there, love letters for ex-girlfriends, spontaneous reveries and tags from writer friends who stopped to visit and created a lot of graffiti history.

"This is the wall I built, not the wall that some beings try to insinuate that we need, anyway …", he says.

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James GalleryTO EXPAND

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James Gallery

Michael Underwood

Because you need a sense of humor to survive in this world, LEE's humor and socio-political messages are the structure of his work, and they are revealed in his process; the walls function as his sounding board. Phrases that have been written there are his own, or borrowed, song texts, or fragments that he has heard elsewhere and that later sound and find their way to the wall.

The 12 segmented tablets, framed and seen in Los Angeles, are cut out of a more recent studio in Brooklyn. Color tests, spray paint and marker doodles are everywhere, along with drops and fleeting meanings. Names of paintings, such as Song and a prayerand the title of the show itself can be deciphered from their kaleidoscopic content with multiple layers. "I pronounce my work and my words as I sometimes paint," says LEE. "It's abstract, it means something that's direct, but sometimes I just hit it to give it taste and color."

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James GalleryTO EXPAND

Lee Quiñones at Charlie James Gallery

Michael Underwood

A striking appearance is Born from many apples, a large unfinished painting that dominates the entrance to the gallery. The carefully reproduced image of an underground garden with trains that pull through it while a boy with a cord runs overhead, is not about trains or memories of the past. Instead, it is a metaphor for how you step through life. And since the apple does not fall far from the tree, the son of the artist modeled on the image. Everything in LEE & # 39; s past is in direct line with the current scene. It is a work of art that transcends many styles and, even in its unfinished state, LEE embraces this part of the journey of the painting, something that he sees as "never really finished".

Nine lives has a rich narrative based on the 1957 photo of the Afro-American student Elizabeth Eckford who arrives to be integrated into Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas. The original plan for nine students to integrate the school together changed the night before and because Eckford had no phone at home, s