Eriberto started photographing graffiti in the 1988. He has photographed some graffiti yards like Belmont tunnel and artists in the Graf scene in Los Angeles. The graffiti photos are ones he took in 1988-89.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Burning Desire Story in Frank 151
Jesse Nicely

Walking through his downtown Los Angeles neighborhood back in 1989, Eriberto Oriol would stumble upon a battle of epic proportions. Two young LA kings were painting on the walls of the Belmont Tunnel; one of LAs most famous graffiti yard’s, that was torn down in 2006. Starting in 1921 the Belmont Tunnel was home to the trolley cars of early Los Angeles rail based public transportation. The system was shut down by 1961 and the Belmont Tunnel would lay dormant. Then in the 1980s Belmont Tunnel would receive a second life as one of the most vibrant yards, when it would become a cultural epicenter for the LAs burgeoning graff scene. By 1989, Slick and Hex were using the Belmont yard to stage the first of what would become a series of legendary style wars that would help to shape the aesthetic of Los Angeles graffiti.

“When we first saw Slick and Hex at Belmont battling, at the time we were looking for something different from the traditional artists we had been working with,” explains Eriberto Oriol. At the time, Oriol and his wife Angelica had just opened a gallery in the Pico House, the oldest historical hotel building located on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.


After seeing the work, the couple decided to curate an art show with Slick and Hex, which would grow to include Mandoe, Duke, and Skill – a collective of some of the most respected graffiti artist in Los Angeles. “None of them had ever been in a gallery before,” recalls Oriol. “We asked them if they were interested in participating, and they said yes.”

“It was my very first taste of this hustle called ‘Fine Art’,” reminisces Slick, who in the years following the show would go on build a successful career as an artist/designer and launch his own successful clothing brand. “I was really impressed by how Eriberto and Angelica were down for what we were doing and went way out on a limb to try and bring it to the rest of the world.”

Deeply rooted in Los Angeles cultural, social and political causes, the Oriol’s asked the artists to focus on issues confronting the community. “We knew that Slick and Hex were battling in the street, but we wanted to make one community statement, it wasn’t about battling.”

“One of the things that we wanted them to do was work with issues, especially the whole re-development process that was going on in downtown LA, where the surrounding and immediate area was being torn down to put up new high rise buildings and other developments. In the eye of the public, graffiti artist had a bad rap, they were considered nothing but hoodlums or gang members. If they worked with universal issues there was no way they could tear them down, because these are the same issues that the public deal with everyday.” By making a community statement, the Oriol’s were able to showcase them as fine artists.

The artists painted in the gallery space in full view of the public for the next month and half, this process would help build a dialogue between the artists and the community. A local restaurant ended up providing free food for the artists whenever they were working, and even an MTA manager came around and voiced support for the project. “He said that tagging on buses in the area had dropped by 60%… he thought that it was helping the whole situation,” explains Eriberto.

However, the show was not without its controversy, once sponsors found out the show involved graffiti, they all withdrew their funding. “We had $35,000 to do the exhibit,” says Eriberto, “but once sponsors found out that we were doing a graffiti exhibit, they all pulled their money. They told us we had a bad rap, and if they gave us the money, they would look bad. We didn’t have any money, and we had told the artists we would pay for all their supplies and materials.” Regardless of this setback, support from the community was never far off, local businessmen who learned about the situation stepped in and paid for all the artists’ materials.

Observing the artists energy and spontaneity, Angelica Oriol would come up with the show’s title – Burning Desire – “she saw that they really had the Burning Desire to be artists,” says Eriberto, “in many ways, these guys had more a burning desire to create work then many of the artists we had worked with in the past.”

By the time opening night came, there was palpable buzz surrounding the show. Mandoe, who was 18 at the time, recalls, “the opening night brought together an array of curious eyes… young adolescences, teenagers and adults — all from different walks of life that encompassed: Graff Writers, News Reporters all the way to Council Men, all getting an eye-full of our drama. It was truly one of the best moments of my life. This was the first show of its kind and its magnitude out here in the City of Angels.”

The show would eventually draw more than 17,000 visitors, and receive local and national coverage, including the New York Times, and international coverage from as far away as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and several European countries. Mandoe’s piece was purchased by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art for inclusion in their permanent collection.

The shows ultimate success would help to pave the way for graffiti’s wider acceptance as an art form. Looking back, Mandoe remembers the general attitude towards graffiti at the time of the shows opening in 1989, “back then Graff was not as accepted as it is today.

Nor, did we have as many patrons to this style of painting or as many venues as we do now.” Today corporations are eager to embrace graffiti and urban art, integrating it into their brands in hopes of gaining street credibility in a saturated market. 26 years later this landmark show reminds us that the combination of art and a “Burning Desire” can open minds and change perceptions.


3 Responses to “Graffiti Story”

  1. 1 w
    August 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Informative article, exactly what I was looking for.

  2. 2 Hye
    April 7, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I got this web pge from my friend whho shared with me regarding this site and at the momenmt this time I am browsing this web site and reading very informative articles or reviews at this place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


November 2022

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,203 other followers

%d bloggers like this: