Graffiti Art Comes off the Streets, Into Palm Springs Gallery

Coachella Valley artist among group

Gregory Siff's work will be exhibited along with nine other urban artists Sept. 28 at Gallery 446 in Palm Springs.

Gregory Siff


Gallery 446 in Palm Springs will unearth “The 5th Element: The Golden Era of Street Art,” featuring the work of 10 urban artists from Los Angeles and Coachella Valley, from 6-10 p.m. Sept. 28.

It will be like a mean piece from the Melrose/Boyle Heights/Venice Beach streets landing in the desert.

“Palm Springs is like Disney World, there’s no graffiti anywhere,” says Gregory Siff, who just finished a mural for Heineken’s Strongbow in New York.

“We’re more mellow now, but anything can happen,” adds Alex “Defer” Kizu,  whose complex letterforms are featured in three graffiti anthologies.

Defer and Mear One, who were an integral part of the LA street scene in the mid-1980s, will show alongside 13-year-old Skyler Grey, whose work is sponsored by P. Diddy’s girlfriend and his customers include Katy Perry.

Colorful acrylic and mixed media canvases, books, prints and even neon signs will be for sale with prices ranging from $50 to $10,000. A portion of the proceeds go to

“We are proud and grateful to be working with such a dynamic group of artists,” says Eddie Donaldson, the show’s curator. “We wanted to represent everything from graffiti to street art and everything in between.”

Bad Rap

“Street artists get a bad rap because people confuse them with gang bangers,” says Ryan “Motel” Campbell, who moved to Palm Springs from LA. “But we’re so far from all that.”

According to Kizu, the rebellious stigma of street artists gets way overblown.

“Graffiti has been around since the Roman Empire,” Kizu said. “The widespread ‘Kilroy was here’ graffiti image started with American soldiers during World War II.”

As a young street artist, Kizu says he was caught by police, but only got his “hands slapped.”

“There were so many gangs in LA back then, I don’t think they knew what to do with us,” he says.

“In the 90s, there were darker times,” Campbell adds. “Some street artists got prison time.”

When Campbell was caught as a minor, he says he had to pay a stiff fine, and perform 60 hours of community service.

From the Streets to the Galleries

Campbell got the tag name, “Motel” because he often let other artists stay at his place. When he developed a drug addiction, Campbell moved to Palm Springs where he established an art installation business. He also teaches classes at Venus Studios.

Siff, who once tagged just to say that he was “hungry,” now paints sneakers for Van, and installations for Siren Studios and Warner Brothers Records.

Kizu’s murals in Boyle Heights once featured dragons and tigers, but about two years ago, he started including several layers of letters that seem to “explode” from the center.

“I would watch birds fly in formation and migrate for survival. Mine is more of a spiritual migration … leaving my comfort zone,” Kizu says.

Extra: Campbell will instruct a public street art class Sept. 29 at Gallery 446. For details, call the gallery at 760-459-3142.

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