By NATHAN SOLISNuzzled against the Union Pacific tracks in El Sereno, colorfully saturated walls claimed by tagging crews line the alley behind Alhambra Avenue. The nearly one-mile stretch of street art and tagging painted on backsides of warehouses, auto repair shops and rusting metal sheds faces out to a select population of train operators and people walking the tracks.
Like a Dickens novel, two men nursing a bottle in a brown bag rest beneath a colorful wall and welcome me to their corner of the world. They motion to the writing on the walls, “This here is my art collection. Do you like it?”
In high school, kids would bomb their backpacks with paint cans and talk about tagging up the walls along the tracks. A strong paint vapor trailed them around the hallways of Woodrow Wilson High School. I never followed them, but now in 2014, I walk the industrial path, a strip of asphalt between the buildings and the train tracks, a trail littered with Taco Bell wrappers, beer bottles, condoms, spent spray cans and bent pennies.
This strip of street art that runs down the alley southwest of Warwick Avenue has no steering committee, no public input on what message the murals will give to the community. One mural illustrates the bloody Chicano history in Los Angeles with mention of Chavez Ravine and the Zoot Suit Riots, while another mural shows Speedy Gonzalez holding a pepper.
The L.A. River’s tags may be painted over, but something persistent lives next to the tracks in El Sereno. It’s a slice of public art that’s not easily accessible, but worth the stroll – just be sure to go in the day.
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.