Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Melrose Place

CBS (Can't Be Stopped) Crew, 2010

I can honestly say I never saw so much as a minute of the television show called Melrose Place. I don’t know for sure that there’s even an address called Melrose Place. I gathered enough, though, from all the crinkled People magazines I saw in my dentist’s office in the early 1990s that the show was about a bunch of attractive young people searching for their dreams in West Hollywood.

My connection with LA’s Melrose Avenue was less cinematic and carried none of the angst of la vie bohème. When I was out in LA last December I visited a couple of historic homes, one of which is near Melrose Avenue. While trying to find a place to park I drove up and down a few blocks of Melrose. I noticed that Melrose had a mix of funkiness, decay and tragic hipness that would make it a good place to take pictures. I didn’t have time for it that day. But I put it on my list of places to visit later.

This past Friday morning I made it back. I guess the tragically hip don’t get out much in the morning, though, because even by 11:00 a.m. almost all of the shops were still closed. And just to prove to decidedly non-hip people like me that they aren’t interested in us, shops didn’t even have their hours posted. I guess it’s one of those “If you have to ask….” things.

Anyway, I hadn’t planned on shopping. And as it turned out, it wasn’t the eclectic storefronts of Melrose Avenue that caught my eye, but rather the alleys behind the stores on the south side of Melrose.

The alleys are covered with graffiti. It’s on walls, fences and any other fixed surface; all manner of curves, squares, chevrons, arrows, colors, men, women and creatures real and imagined. It’s bright and big, and because it’s in an alley you experience it up close.

Eyes, 2010

It’s probably not fair to call it graffiti. After the initial shock of it all passes, what impresses you is that this looks more commissioned than like vandal art. For one, the business people seem to tolerate it. For another, you don’t see so many of the artist’s tags that you see on more outlaw graffiti. And while walking up and down service alleys isn’t something I usually do, this art was so engaging that I did just that and didn’t feel a bit unsafe doing it.

I’ve since learned that what I saw is the work of the CBS (Can’t Be Stopped) Crew, a group of art school-trained artists with extensive professional experience. They undertook the Melrose alley project, so said one of them, to gain “street cred.”

Getting Aggressive, 2010

They got permission from property owners along the alley and more often than not brought their own Krylon spray paint to work with. The result is an almost continuous stretch of original art on both sides of the alley that runs for twenty city blocks, from Fairfax to La Brea.

I only walked a few blocks of it. To be honest, I’m not usually drawn to this kind of art. But this was fun. The day was sunny and warm. Why not take a walk in an alley?

It turns out there’s a whole gallery of videos about this work on YouTube. Here’s one that will lead you to them.

On Top, 2010


  1. Haven't been to LA since the early 70s and then only for a 12 hour layover between flights. I was with a group of guys who had just finished Combat Readiness Training at Vandenburg AFB and we were on our way back home to Little Rock. The only local color we saw were the striking massage parlor workers picketing (and conducting a little back alley business) while we spent the day touring LA by taxi.

  2. Very cool. I've never seen that! Thanks for the tour.