By Luke Netzley | LA Downtown News
Soaring over 1,000 feet above the streets of Los Angeles, the U.S. Bank Tower is a centerpiece of the Downtown skyline.
To celebrate the city’s art and culture, U.S. Bank Tower owner Silverstein Properties has invited eight local artists to paint murals outside of the building’s main entrance on Fifth Street.
Artists were given an approximately 20-foot-wide by 8-foot-high space and worked with the theme: “What does Los Angeles mean to you?”
For street artists Deity and Brittney S. Price, the space became a blank canvas to share their stories with the communities of DTLA.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Deity, whose mural depicts her friend, artist and activist Tochlita. “The reason I chose her is because when I think of LA, I think about the culture that’s been cultivated here. She’s one of those people that not only cultivates culture, but she also helps preserve it through her art and through her activism, and I wanted to shine light on her for this project.
“I also picked some of the flowers that we see a lot here in LA because we also have our Flower District down the street. … We see a lot of calla lilies and we see a lot of red roses, so I really wanted to incorporate that into this piece and bring everything together.”
Deity began painting over 14 years ago as a graffitist and is currently a member of Few and Far Women, an all-female collective committed to the empowerment of women and girls and to bringing street art and murals to communities around the world.
“We’re all from different pockets of LA, so we’re all showing different sections in its diversity,” Price described. “For me in particular, I feel like I really connect with south LA, particularly the Leimert, Inglewood area. That’s where I actually got reacquainted with my culture. And so within my mural, you’ll see lots of the African symbols, you’ll see Adinkra and most importantly you’ll see Sankofa, which means you have to know your past to know your future.”
For Price, art has always been a hobby of hers as well as a form of visual journaling. She describes herself as “community taught” and she still regards her professional art today as a diary of sorts.
Her painting on Fifth Street depicts renowned artist Noni Olabisi, who was known for her large-scale murals like “To Protect and Serve,” who died in March. Price’s piece stands as a tribute to Olabisi’s life and to her impact on the city of Los Angeles.
“Last year I had the opportunity to work with her, which was awesome,” Price said.
“That was the first time I had ever met someone within this field that looked like me, and she gave me permission to actually pursue my career. … Seeing her and seeing how powerful she was, I was like, ‘Oh, okay. I can do it. I’m not alone.’
“I had it on my heart ever since she passed away to give a tribute to her. … So I am paying tribute to her most famous mural, ‘Freedom Won’t Wait,’ and I also took her ‘Death to the Ego’ eagles and I put them on the side. One of the main things about Noni is that she has a yellow sun, and so the yellow sun represents the light within us as well as out, as well as it being the great connector that combines us all. I just feel like that is the real LA.”
The eight-artist installation at the U.S. Bank Tower was curated by legendary local artist Man One and, alongside Deity and Price, includes work by Serio Robleto, Erin Yoshi, Showzart, Asylm and Hedy Torres.
For the past six years, developer Silverstein Properties has worked with dozens of artists to paint murals in and around the new World Trade Center in New York City and recently on the top floor of the U.S. Bank Tower, where 15 LA-based artists created the highest murals in the state of California.
The murals by the Fifth Street entrance will remain in place and accessible to the public until Thanksgiving, when the company plans to unveil a newly renovated lobby.
“Having the opportunity to paint on the outside of one of the most iconic buildings in downtown LA is truly amazing!” Man One said. “The amount of foot traffic on this block due to the library across the street and all the neighboring businesses, hotels and restaurants makes it a great public canvas to demonstrate the beauty that Los Angeles has to offer. That’s why I felt it was important to curate the walls with artists from diverse backgrounds and from different parts of LA, but who all know and share an absolute love of this city and its people.”