LA Liber Amicorum is a unique artists’ book that binds together 143 works on paper from more than 150 of Los Angeles’s leading graffiti and tattoo artists. The individual creative approaches to letter forms, hand styles, symbols, signs, and themes display the city’s diverse landscape of graffiti and street art.
The book, funded and donated by art collector Ed Sweeney, drew some of its inspiration from rare books and prints, particularly from a type of manuscript in the Getty Research Institute’s collections called a liber amicorum (“book of friends”). Such books were originally bound with blank leaves, which multiple contributors then filled with illuminated coats of arms, watercolors, poetry, and calligraphy as mementos for the owner.
LA Liber Amicorum emulates the black sketchbooks, or piecebooks, that street artists often carry with them and inscribe for each other. Sweeney envisioned the Getty Black Book, as it is also known, as a way of gathering these artists’ work into a single bound collection, symbolizing the transformation of the creative output by rival crews of street artists into an LA Book of Friends.
This book was on view at ESMoA from June 8–September 21, 2014, as part of the exhibition SCRATCH, which featured a selection of 16th- and 17th-century rare books from the Research Institute’s special collections, as well as a full-gallery “open black book” installation curated by local graffiti artists.