Many graffiti artists carry sketchbooks, called black books, and they ask crew members and others whose work they admire to inscribe their books with lettering or drawings. A few years ago, the Getty Research Institute invited artists, including Angst, Axis, Big Sleeps, Chaz, Cre8, Defer, EyeOne, Fishe, Heaven, Hyde, Look, ManOne, and Prime, to consider the idea of a citywide graffiti black book. During visits to the Getty Center, the artists viewed rare books related to calligraphy and letterforms, including works by Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci. The artists instantly recognized the connections to their own practices and were particularly drawn to a liber amicorum (book of friends), a form of autograph book popular in the seventeenth century. Passed from hand to hand, it was filled with signatures, poetry, and coats of arms, like a black book from another era.
Inspired by this meeting of minds across centuries, these artists became both creators and curators, crafting their own pages and inviting others to contribute. Eventually 151 Los Angeles artists decorated 143 individual pages. These were bound together into an exquisite artists’ book that became known as the Getty Graffiti Black Book. This publication reproduces each page from the original artists’ book and recounts the story of an unprecedented collaboration across the diverse artistic landscape of Los Angeles.