Throughout the world Los Angeles is known for its murals, graffiti, and tattoo art, all which were once considered guttural and criminal, since they all had origins in the street. As a result of long-term persistence, these art forms have worked their way into the global mainstream. Since the 1930s, street gang organizations in Los Angeles have directly influenced contemporary art, although it has usually been deemphasized in academia. Dark Progressivism is a feature length documentary film that demonstrates the brutal and always beautiful tradition of these art forms and their trajectory from the 1980s until the present. Directed and written by Rodrigo Ribera d’Ebre, a contributor to The Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and author of Urban Politics: The Political Culture of Sur 13 Gangs, and produced by award winning filmmaker, James J. Yi (Twinsters, Mooz-Ium, Detroit Unleaded, Man Up), Dark Progressivism is a riveting inside look at the Los Angeles history of graffiti and tattoo art, the street gang’s influence on these arts, some of the artists that worked in this medium and are now world-renowned fine artists or other, and the social conditions experienced during a specific era.
From the blood on the streets to the walls of the galleries, Los Angeles artists share their experiences with inner city violence and their use of creativity as a form of redemption. Out of the explosion of the crack epidemic, gangs, vandalism, and stepped up police response during the 1980s, a new urban mentality developed. The community's reaction to police suppression resulted in criminal artistic expression as a form of rebellion against the social ramifications suffered on the streets and a rupture of previous art styles. Narrated through first-hand accounts by artists, journalists, and academics such as: Defer, Prime, Big Sleeps, Gajin Fujita, Chaz Bojorquez, Chris Blatchford, Hector Tobar, Chuey Quintanar, Juan Carlos Munoz Hernandez, Cab, Cryptik, Richard Valdemar and others, this eye-opening documentary tells the story of a local nativist tradition in artwork that helps explain how the dark aspects of the built environment combined with forward-thinking principles have influenced contemporary art. As tattoos, murals, graffiti, and cholo lettering/culture become more mainstream and acceptable to modern society, so does the importance to understand the rich tradition, training, craftsmanship, discipline, scholarship, and trajectory of the dark progressivist art form. Internationally, Los Angeles art and culture is championed for its forward-thinking principles and style, thus, as it gains momentum and artists around the world continue to imitate Los Angeles traditions, it is imperative to demonstrate how it developed.