MEAR ONE'S GRAFFITI SALVATION
Surviving as an actual artist in today's Los Angeles is no easier than it ever
was. But actually making a name for yourself that stands alone, without limitation
or being debased by definition, with a strength that goes out before you and
proclaims the substance of the artist it classifies is no small feat. Greg
Escalante and Nathan Spoor take an in-depth look into the realm of Mear One,
an artist whose name claims an epic body of artwork with such substance and
October 2007 #81
Story by Nathan Spoor
Stepping into Mear One's house for the first time is most like the feeling
of being enveloped into an energy source of positivity and forward-motion.
There is no up or down in the universal sense of the word, but more an atmosphere
of continuous thought and research... how to move the people forward, raise
awareness, enrich the greater consciousness. These are but a few of the cornerstones
on which Mear builds his philosophies and speculations on humanity and cultural
Born in 1971 and reared in the shadows of the serious street times of Los
Angeles, Mear realized early on that he was destined to pursue art as a passion.
first he relays to Escalante that as a little kid he was interested in being
a forest ranger. This was a pursuit that he would wash out when he learned
the rigors of what was involved in the life of a ranger, or any such job. "I've
always seemed to strive for the path of least resistance", he muses, "As
a child my private personal hobby that made me happy wasn't actually considered
a "job" per se. But when push came to shove, I realized that it
wasn't a job but a mission, a path."
His mother had the insight to enlist him in city-sponsored art classes as
a child, but the real story didn't start until his trouble-making days in
high schooll. It was here, in the midst of his most notorious vandal days,
that he saw the vision that would change his life forever. "I remember
this very vividly," he says, "Charlie Tuna (of Jurassic 5 fame)
would sit in front of me in class and draw pictures every day. But he would
more than the usual nonsense or self-gratifying tag shit, he would just draw
intelligent sorts of graffiti. His connection to drawing characters from
where he lived fascinated me."
Mear's drawings at the time were more from fantasty, an escapism drawn from
his need to break away from the ghetto life, the gang wars and prostitutes
outside his front door. "Graffiti art and watching Charlie helped me to
let my environment influence me, rather than run away from myself." Now,
his shithole surroundings were an obvious goldpile of information worthy
of drawing from. The industrial reality was more real and worthwhile than
based in comics, slapstick, porn or fantasy.
Now it meant something to make art. Now he had a conviction, a deep concern
for approaching it as work, as communication, a tool to reach out and change
or at least speak about something real.
There was a battle for every bit of space on those walls the same as the battle
going on right now in galleries, " he continues. "When I broke through
it was as though I finally knew there were no rules. Bansky's people and Steve
Lazarus have shown us that. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the
obvious." And so it was. Mear's path to reach a larger audience began
almost immediately. In 1993, personal close friend Skate One was killed by
an Amtrak train while doing a graff piece. Mear painted a a mural on the side
of the Zero One gallery's building to commemorate his friend, and immediately
got the attention of gallery owner John Pochna. "I remember dropping by
to check it out a day later after getting a little break from painting. I was
cruising down the street covered in paint splatters, on my skateboard being
pulled by my two pit bulls. It would have made a great picture now that I think
about it. But he came running out and asked if that was my work and if I'd
want to be in the show he was putting up. So I said sure, it's another place
to get a message out, right? And nobody I knew was doing it in galleries." And
show he did, bringing in a piece to the show but not just to the show, but
AT the show. Showing up an hour into the opening with his painting and hammering
his own nail way up on the wall and hiking up a ladder and hanging the piece.
Almost as soon as it hit the wall it sold. "That was the first time I
met Stuart Spense (famed art collector). As soon as I'd hung it he said loudly "Sold!" I
didn't know who'd said it or who he was until later."
And so it was, Mear was reborn. Free, as free as can be expected in a city
intent on consuming its own and all around them. "I live in this city
where the fantasy will linger as truth until someone opens your eyes to the
flipside, which is actually your reality. This art is about becoming conscious,
waking up from the Hollywood movie you've been living in and finding out
what to do when it just shuts down. Graffiti art is my saviour. I gave me
even saved my life. That evolved into the new wake-up call, and the new wake-up
call was that it wasn't graffiti I was doing - it was ART."
Mear then realized that he was being given a ket to a language that transcended
verbal barriers. There was no barrier to showing a message of love. Of showing
that we were all fighting in a real-life battlefield of love. And that love
was art. His story was transcendent of the current state of humanity. As
a student of philosophy, Mear realized that bringing his work to the public
a political standing would generate the sort of heat that would wake people
up enough to get their attention. Earlier on, he and Skate One had taken
a trip to San Francisco, on acid, and stumbled upon an amazing treasure of
wealth in the form of stacks of Robert Williams books. "I stole every
one of them right there. And we took them back to the hotel room, tripping
hardcore the whole time and letting these books come life and make wall-sized
movies of his art come to life and attack each other and scramble all over
the walls for hours." He remembered the books that had made an effort
to find them again, connecting the dots Skate had left to lead him to the
next step of the game. The visuals were not only provocative, but full of
and convulsive beauties.
It all started making sense, the fact that I saw my idols Risky, the letter
kind, and Slick, the character king, and I wanted to find a way to encompass
both styles with my own flavor. "I think that's why I was doing something
that people were interested in. There was a passion for showing, for coming
up in that early 90's graffiti scene to do something different and unique and
with more style than the next cat. So to see these guys really coming up and
seeing graffiti artists take over a city and step up into galleries allows
art to teach in a way that the new methodology can be seen - that's real progress." Mear's
level of conviction and deeper level of affection for this art allows him to
take the time to contemplate on not getting caught up in the next new facade
as well. "I give it up to a guy like Slick for keeping it on the same
beat the whole time. I tripped out on the different writers that went from
vandals to Christians to neighborhood watch... And those conceptual artists
with way-out concepts and really bad art don't do it for me either. Those
things have to compete on a level playing field. That's my goal, conviction
the word. To be someone who's convicted to being themselves."
We have a talk about artists that are being themselves. Mode2, Delta, Doze
Green, Vogue and Ron English fill the room now. "Ron's totally a bad ass.
He's doing exactly what I'm talking about. Even he does that kitschy stuff
as a lure for the public to start thinking. His vandalism is true graffiti
art. You don't need a spray can to do graffiti. A real artist puts his life
on the line to challenge the norm." He's met Banksy, and we're impressed. "He's
an amazingly witty cat. As a designer it's great, but how do you make that
much money off of spray paint stencils? We've met several times at 33 1/3
and his wit is as sharp every time. People are willing to buy your ideas
it's huge and masterful or just a small work if it's strong or powerful in
some way. The things he did in Palestine on the wall is beautiful."
Mear continues, "The new wake up call is that art is a communication tool,
and that just because of that doesn't mean that people are going to do it very
well. I've always respected true artists, like yourself, like Rick Griffin,
Chaz Bojoroquez, Alfphonse Mucha, Maxfield Parrish. These are artists that
dig the trenches off the greater river of consciousness rather than simply
lie back and float in the current. You, they, we, are building the muscles
we need to direct the flow of the river and build your own stream when it's
time to step out." It's all too true, for an artist to be what they're
supposed to be in these terms - to be an interpreter of life, a free individual
and not just another spokesman. Therein lie the true challenges to actually
setting yourself free of the expectations of what your art is to be in order
to be an artist.
" I've had incredible experiences with some great galleries and some situations
that I'll avoid. My recent expedition to show with Upper Playground was amazing.
I love Europe and the way they respond to my work. I love showing in Tokyo,
but I'm amazed at how everything can be
instantly converted into merchandise over there. It speaks volumes of how
the art world has conformed these days. The online promotion and self promotion
that exist by the instant dealers that have merchandised the art world are
insane. Kid Robot and Munky Kid, incredible guys, but they're at the point
where they've got people thinking that now you have to have all these...
When it's all said and done, it comes down to intentions. And Mear intends
to come down to Truth, Love, Beauty and Experience. "I really intend
to enjoy my time here and to share that and to understand other people's
In this show we're all like a part of the most amazing diamond. We all represent
a different a facet, and we each bring a different place of individuality
to the mix. Life should be lived artistically. Every second. I'm going to
my experiences in that moment and pull something out of it to reinvest in
the next and every next moment of life."
Just as we're not defined as what we do or what we've done, but what we do
in the moment. That's what counts Keeping truths and bringing our art into
staying True as well as in the Truth.
I leave Mear One's with Escalante in a true daze. A beautiful haze of positivity
and choice. It's not an uneasy or unexpected sensation, but one that a few
hours with a modern master and prophet of the living words can impart.
For more information on Mear One, contact the artist at www.mearone.com and