California Locos: Five Legends Come Together
The California Locos are not boring dudes. Last week the five native Angeleños—Chaz Bojorquez, Dave Tourjé, John Van Hamersveld, Norton Wisdom, and Gary Wong—showed their exhibit California Locos at Context Miami. All have been working as street, skate, and surf artists for the better part of fifty years, and you can still see traces of the Locos running through the work of current California skate punk artists, like Brendan Donnelly and Sterling Bartlett.
John Van Hamersveld is perhaps the best known of the bunch, garnering international acclaim for designing the Endless Summer movie poster in 1966 while he was still a student at the Art Center College of Design. By 19 he was already a seasoned surfer, a “tool” of Miki Dora while hanging out with artist Ed Ruscha on the side.
Shepard Fairey once said that the Endless Summer poster “may be one of the most pervasive surf images ever created,” and its success led Van Hamersveld to a job as Art Director for Capitol Records, where he designed the album covers for the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. His work helped visualize surf culture in the same way the Beach Boys put it to music, and captured the imagination of America in the 1960s in the process.
Then there’s Van Hamersveld's contemporaries. Chaz Bojorquez is a Chicano street artist whose manic, blocky lettering has had an immeasurable influence on West Coast graff. Dave Tourjé is the pop art mastermind who blends his multicultural heritage into his color-saturated canvases. Norton Wisdom, beyond having a cool name, is an artist of smashing proportions. He creates near-abstract expressionist paintings of empty rooms, and is also know for his live art-painting performances with bands like Big Black, George Clinton, and Beck.
The California Locos have been influencing West Coast art for fifty years but they’re a lot more than just aging punks—they’re pioneers.