Vyal Reyes is a leader in the Graffiti Arts Movement, and the winner of the 2010 and the 2011 Estria Graffiti Battle. For more info on Vyals’ work, check him out at vyalone.com. Stay posted for his upcoming solo show at Hold Up Gallery in LA, opening on April 14th. He will soon be launching his blog “Where the Vyal things are” which can be found on his website.
Name: Vyal, aka Vyal One, aka Vyal Reyes
City of Origin: LA, born and raised in East LA
One Word to Describe yourself: Insecure…haha
1. If LA were to allow writing in the LA river, how do you think that would alter the graffiti scene?
Well, its a complicated thing because the LA River is a sacred space for graffiti writers, and it always has been. I think if it was open to allow anyone and everyone to go in then you would have total chaos, and it may not go as well as it seems. Because then you would have a situation like Venice beach where people have permits to paint, and you work on a piece the whole day and then some kid who’s been painting for a year comes and paints over your shit. For those reasons I think the LA river is best left illegal. The way we grew up painting at different yards, sometimes the cops would turn a blind eye, and other times they would just come fuck with you and kick you out. For those reasons it would be cool if it was legal, respectfully. There’s a lot of kids that wanna be street artists, and a lot of transplants that we get who claim to be street artists from other areas that I’ve never heard of as far as their work is concerned. I see a lot of kids who get up in LA who are like “Ive been a street artist for 2 years and I want a gallery show”, but you know I’ve been a graffiti artist for 20 years. That’s the only part that I see being complicated. As far as liability is concerned, graffiti writers just want a place to paint and not be bothered.
2. Do you think it would reduce tagging on the streets?
Yes, it would definitely be reduced around that area. But in LA right now, there isn’t really that much tagging going on anyways. Since a lot of big name writers have been getting arrested, and are getting serious fines, its curbed it a lot. There’s been toy tagging, but you can never stop toy tags unfortunately.
3. How has participating in the battles affected your career?
Its had some really positive effects. You know a lot of people are really apprehensive about battling for whatever reason. But since I took part in the battle, I’ve noticed the things that come along with it – the fame, the exposure, that’s really cool. With winning the first Estria battle, i was able to go on the Water Writes mural tour. We went out to Palestine, and went to Gaza for 10 days. Really the Estria battle and winning the battle really put me in their minds when they decided to go out to Palestine.
4. What advice do you have for New/Young artists out there?
Find your own way, find your own style. Really grind. These days, things are so easily shared. You can get a lot of compliments from people that may not really know anything, you may get 20 friends “liking” something that you post on Facebook, but what’s important is developing and pushing yourself beyond your comfort level. That’s what I do personally. If I know I’m gonna paint something similar to what I’ve painted before, then I’ll at least try and make it bigger or push it further, one way or another, be it through textures or design. Don’t give up. You should be doing art because it is something inside of you that you need to do. I started painting graffiti because it was something I needed to do- I had this natural instinct to go up to the wall and start creating something on it. So really, you shouldn’t be doing the work for anyone but yourself. Do it for the gratification that painting gives you, and not so much for whatever trend is going on- don’t hop on any art bandwagons.
5. How did art become a central part of your life?
Graffiti saved my life. I really feel like that’s true, even to this day. You can take the path of going to art school, going into galleries, taking that traditional path. The path that I took, and the path that a lot of my friends took was super unknown. We had this desire, this want, and we fulfilled it and pursued it, and we didn’t think about school or anything like that. Some of my friends ended up getting jumped into gangs, got into drugs. I dealt with drug abuse for a while in my life. The one thing i realized was that people were quick to take off and abandon you when you are doing drugs or living a little fowl. And then you have these other people that are willing to come and leach off of you that are like physical or psychic or spiritual vampires that will come and drain you. And the only thing there that is still there for you to rehabilitate yourself that never leaves your side is your talent and your skill. As far as graffiti was concerned the only people that would come to get me and to take me out to paint and do stuff were my graffiti friends. My graff friends were like “we don’t care what you’re on, you’re gonna come out and paint.” So I really owe a lot to my graffiti friends and the graffiti art movement
6. Do you have any painting rituals?
Every morning when I wake up my ritual is coffee and black metal or death metal. Setting up my paint is ritualistic, but as far as worshiping any gods, no. I might burn some sage just to clear the air. I like to put fire to my spray can, especially if I’m live painting. One, its interesting to see peoples reactions, its kind of funny. But two it clears the air. Fire purifies.
7. How is your art linked to your struggle for justice?
A lot of the work that i do is influenced by my cultural background, being Native, being Mexican. and being all these things that i am. I am fortunate to have a lot of different influences and references to pull from as far as my culture is concerned. Then there’s also the actual act of painting. For instance in LA, where painting has been at times actually life threatening; painting in certain areas and go over gang graffiti and reclaim the space and open it up to the youth around me. All of those things are huge factors for me. When you stop and think about it its overwhelming- what it is that we actually do. More so then painting a piece on the wall, it’s the interaction that we get from the community. They come by, and they really love it or they shake their heads, but either way they’re interacting. And they realize that their streets are safe- safe enough. And there’s creative people out there, and were all from the same place. We are no better, and no worse.
2010 “HEAL” Battle Piece, 1st Place
Vyal with his 2011 Battle Piece “PROUD”, 1st place