No trip to SF is complete without visiting St. Francis Fountain, the ultimate brunch spot. I ordered the wrong thing and my server was cool enough to bring me the right stuff without gruff. I felt like I should have given him some B/D shirts or a book but I didn’t have anything with me. I have no idea what his name was but someone reading this blog has to know him. Blonde dude with tats who looked like a surfer/skater type and was wearing a hat with the rim bent back ala Suicidal Tendencies style. If you know who he is email us on our contact page so I can send him a care package for the great service. Okay let’s head back south….
On my way back to Los Angeles I stopped by the studio of Ala Ebtekar located near Stanford. I’ve known Ala for a while now and we both show at the same gallery in Dubai. Although we grew up on different coasts Ala and I share a lot of things in common. Both of us come from Iranian families but grew up in the states. We both were involved with graffiti art from a young age and still reference and draw inspiration from that era in our lives. The above image is a pair of sneakers that Ala altered with traditional Iranian calligraphy and patterning. The fat laces were hand made in Iran.
Although Ala grew up in the states he studied with a traditional Iranian calligrapher during a visit to Iran. His mentor’s influence comes out in the work in a variety of ways.
During Ala’s many trips to Iran he began to collect old Korans and manuscripts. He would find them in Bazaars and other old shops, spending only $30-50 per book.
Some of these books are hundreds of years old. Just look at that old leather cover! It’s ancient.
The insides of the books have great miniature illustrations and even feature handmade text and verses from the Koran that the previous owners had written in the margins.
Ala is deeply influenced by these ancient books, often using the antique paper to paint new images on. The result is a mix of old meets new, east meets west, and traditional calligraphy meets pop culture/graffiti sensibilities.
Various reference images and installation shots scatter the walls and tables in Ala’s studio. I love the hand painted jean jacket in the photo next to the bboy addidas clad hand to the right.
Even kids in Iran get down with graffiti.
Ala and I were tripping out over these tips. You know graffiti has gone mainstream when it comes in packaging like this. Back in the day we had to buy caps from some shady dude living in his parent’s basement.
All eyes are watching you.
Ala wanted the work to speak for itself but I managed to snap this photo of him while he wasn’t looking!
Ala interweaves hiphop culture with Iranian iconography effortlessly. Everyone needs a paisley patterned hoodie..
Or a jean jacket with Farsi back panel.
Or ornately patterned piece books, markers and boombox.
Some of the first works by Ala that I ever saw were these transformer historical/mythical Iranian figures. Maybe I like these so much because I can relate to the confusion that living in a hybrid culture can create. But what is there not to like about a transformer with a serious ‘stache?
Here are some sketches and drawings from the transformer series.
This guy was sitting on a shelf. I’m pretty sure I had one at one point as well. I wonder if Spongebob will stand the test of time like Transformers did.