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In The Autograph Book of L.A., author and curator Josh Kun reads Los Angeles past and present through a collection of signatures. Pitzer College Professor Susan A. Phillips’s new book, The City Beneath, chronicles a century of Los Angeles graffiti. In this special collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA), these two writers and readers of culture are joined by painter and graffiti icon Chaz Bojorquez to talk about the politics of memory and the future markings to come in our city.

This event is part of a series exploring the unique and historic Autograph Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. In 1906, City Librarian Charles Lummis initiated an Autograph Collection, soliciting hundreds of notable men and women from across the country to submit a representative expression or artwork to the Library’s permanent collection. In 2018, current City Librarian John F. Szabo expanded the collection, inviting all Angelenos to add their names and drawings, poems or memories. This project asks, who gets recorded in the history books and in official archives? Who leaves their mark on the city, and by what means? This series considers the culture, history, and politics of the Los Angeles autograph and signature—from sidewalk cement markings to murals and street names.

Josh Kun

Josh Kun is a professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Popular Music Project of the Norman Lear Center. He is the author or editor of several books, including Audiotopia: Music, Race and America, and his writings on music and culture have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesThe American ProspectLos Angeles Magazine, and many other publications. As a curator and consultant, he has worked with The Getty Foundation, the GRAMMY Museum, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Autry Museum, the Skirball Cultural Center, and others.

Chaz Bojórquez

Chaz Bojórquez was exposed to the uses, values and craft of East Los Angeles graffiti, a tradition since WWII. In 1969, he created a tag that represented him and the streets – a stylized skull called “Señor Suerte” (Mr. Lucky), which became a gangster tattoo image of protection from death. Bojórquez is acknowledged as a pioneer and ‘Godfather of East Los Angeles ‘Cholo’ style graffiti for more that 50 years. Bojórquez is represented in numerous permanent museum collections: The Smithsonian Institute (American, History and Archive Museums), LACMA, MOCA and Laguna Art Museum. Bojórquez exhibits and lectures internationally, and paints “live” at Street Art exhibitions demonstrating his unique letter styles and pursuing commercial/cultural assignments.

Susan A. Phillips

Susan A. Phillips is a professor of Environmental Analysis at Pitzer College. A scholar of gangs, graffiti, and the US prison system since 1990, Phillips is interested in theories of violence, relationships between small-scale social groups and the state, and intersections between urban history, material life, and the built environment. Her books include Wallbangin: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A.Operation Fly Trap: Gangs, Drugs, and the Law, and, most recently, The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti. Phillips has received numerous grants, including two Getty fellowships, a Soros Justice Media Fellowship, and a Harry Frank Guggenheim research grant.

This program will take place at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
1717 E 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021.
Directions and Parking

Unsigned copies of the featured exhibition book, The Autograph Book of L.A., will be available for purchase onsite.  Please don’t forget to keep your tickets handy, either in the Eventbrite app or print them out and bring them with you.