Sitting in the driveway of graffiti legend RISK’s gargantuan estate in the outskirts of Los Angeles, is an old, completely bombed RTD Bus. If you’ were living in SoCal in the ’80s, you remember the RTD bus line. It was L.A.’s janky equivalent to NYC’s MTA trains. Both similarly coveted as mobile canvases by the graff set.
“In New York you paint a train, and it goes by everyone,” says RISK. “Here [in L.A.], you paint a freeway overpass and everyone drives passed it.”
RISK, real name Kelly Graval, has a telling grin. It’s the type of grin that communicates a lifetime of epic tails and crazy days lived during a time when the personal computer was just being popularized and the World Wide Web was but a glimmer in Tim Berners-Lee‘s eye. That’s where RISK started. But he’s managed to keep evolving his art and design work over the last 30 years, bearing witness to to the digital reworking of the very fabric of our culture.
“Back in the day, if you wanted to share your art with other artists, you had to use the regular mail,” reflects Graval. “It took weeks to get replies and see what others were doing. Now within minutes you can share what you’ve done with the world using social media. Social media has stepped up the game.”
Graval’s massive art studio takes up one half of his backyard. The studio is filled with color. Thousands of spray can bottles line a massive wall in the back, a library-like backdrop for his current projects. The other half of the yard is home to what appears to be a Tonka Toy factory, with old street signs and trophy pieces collected over a lifetime.
An artist and entrepreneur his entire life, Graval was mostly influenced by East Coast graffiti. In the ’80’s, he became one of the most respected West Coast artists, being known as the first to travel to New York and hit up the trains. In the ’90’s, he founded Third Rail clothing and became a pioneer of early streetwear. He’s won designer of the year awards and collaborated with artists such as Ice Cube and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
With a 30-year career behind him, and continued success and acclaim in front of him, Graval has long moved beyond aerosol to fine art and illustration. He recently released a hand-painted Dilated Peoples Limited Edition LP, and is presently working on his upcoming biography, ” Keep On Keepin’ On .” Always cognizant of his roots, he makes it a point to support and educate young artists in their craft.
“Graffiti is all or nothing,” says RISK, “you have to know where it comes from to know where it’s at.”
You can view Kelly’s work and future events at RISKROCK.com.