Whitehot Magazine

Book Review: Spray for Peace

Teachr1. Courtesy of Artvoices Books Publishing. Photograph by Raquel Natalicchio


Spray for Peace

By Raquel Natalicchio

132 Pages

Artvoices Books Publishing 2023


“When you put a message out there and someone learns or gets something, you’re a teacher. All graffiti artists are teachers.” – Teachr

“It’s all about educating this next wave of young artists to listen and speak for their community.” – Vyal 

“I suppose my favorite memory was the complete freedom to create whatever I wanted – and talks with God, as I looked up at the stars when I would paint at night.” – Hex 

Much revelation and growth in the development of self and personal identity comes through our work, commitment and dedication to the group that we are inherently a part of. This is often described in important historical texts on the great religions, illustrious sports teams, dominant corporations, and dynamic world leadership that includes members who see the value of this critical continuum and strive to ultimately be better humans. It applies equally to those in the world of graffiti arts. While, initially, graffiti artists in downtrodden urban neighborhoods of the 1970s focused on regaining the self by hitting housing wastelands, city transit systems and warehouse walls with their unique, look-at-me, text-based tags, the shift towards group efforts and true collaboration later supplanted their understandably often, irascible isolation by the mid 1980s. 

Photojournalist and author Raquel Natalicchio has documented this big changeup in personnel format among street art creatives across many of the most hardened neighborhoods of Los Angeles in her new art book, Spray for Peace, published by Artvoices Books. Luckily for us, the making of it was an inside job, one that took her over the course of a year to build new relationships, shoot-thousands of images and gain a greater understanding of what community really means. And then there’s the incredible art. We’ll get to that in a moment. 

Raquel is no stranger to strength in numbers and community efforts. As a practicing artist, she put together a block party and curated her own solo exhibition a decade ago about the cycling community of which she is a member. But she wanted to hear other voices, so she invited a graffiti artist named Cache and some vendors to contribute. She learned more about his work, met other graffiti artists through him and discovered the “graf” world in a brand-new way. 

Aise Born Los Angeles 2016. Courtesy of Artvoices Books Publishing. Photograph by Raquel Natalicchio

Her journey led to becoming a witness to incredible graffiti works across the city, from the now-famous, hyper-pigmented chickens and roosters featured in Cache’s repertoire, to the abstract, meditative and geometric mandalas of Aise Born. As we glimpse into the lives of these artists in Spray for Peace, we quickly learn that many featured in the book favorably acknowledge each other’s art and frequently work together within the same crews. Their backgrounds are diverse. Some migrated with family from impoverished corners of Central and South America, while others were born in local ‘hoods that they now provide a voice for. Some attended art school, while most are either self-taught or peer-taught. Many of the artists talk about the mountain of bad influences available to them growing up and their conscious choice to steer clear by instead making highly visible art that communicated identity, respect and a sense of community.  

Raquel Natalicchio’s photographs in this book capture a wondrous and candid view of both the rookie and seasoned pro graffiti artists who populate it. We see everything from the glorious finished walls of undulating art to the snapshot of an artist’s car interior stacked with boxes of aerosol paint and his trusty lookout dog staring through the windshield. The photos are remarkable works on their own. Each one could easily be a still image wrenched from an award-winning motion picture documentary on the subject.

Black Light King Support Standing Rick Los Angeles 2016. Courtesy of Artvoices Books Publishing. Photograph by Raquel Natalicchio

The text pays solid honor to the efforts and personal story of the artists featured. Each is given a wide berth to speak about their history, work, dreams and aspirations. A common theme seems inescapable, though. Graf artist Plek says it simply, “Build on strength and unity, share knowledge, and assist in the development of the next generation.” It is the effort to both communicate within and pass down essential knowledge to the community through art that seems to matter. It starts with self-actualization, such as with graffiti artist Teachr, who realized that, “art is therapeutic for me…keeps me sane, but it’s also about sharing with people on the street. I got into street art to promote the need for art and education. This is something I would get arrested for. I was committed and did it on my own.”

It is clear that their dedication to the craft have led them to not only create the fast, furious and gorgeous law-breaking variety of graffiti throughout the city; but also, large scale commissions from clients who deeply appreciate their work and point of view. We see the community expand, we see the work mature; and as graffiti crews, such as the long-standing UTI, bring in new artists with unique specialties, a new face to graffiti has been emerging over time. While graffiti artists still get thrown in jail for painting where they should not, graffiti and street art is, “empowering for the neighborhoods. It’s communication through art, something we can understand and enjoy,” Raquel reminds me. “Of course, there’s a long history of painting on cave walls that dates back thousands of years. Graffiti is like scratching into a wall. It’s like a community posting board. For some of the artists who didn’t have money to go to school, it’s a way for them to communicate in their community, to scratch those images into the wall and paint beautifully and stay connected to their people – and even the people who aren’t their people.”

The graffiti artists and crews featured in Spray for Peace include:


Aise Born

UTI Crew

Black Light King






Hex Tgo 

Spray for Peace can be purchased from www.artvoicesbooks.com and Worldwide everywhere books are sold. WM 



Stephen Wozniak

Stephen Wozniak is a visual artist, writer, and actor based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in the Bradbury Art Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, and Lincoln Center. He has performed principal roles on Star Trek: EnterpriseNCIS: Los Angeles, and the double Emmy Award-nominated Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He co-hosted the performing arts series Center Stage on KXLU radio in Los Angeles and guest hosts Art World: The Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art podcast in New York City. He earned a B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more, go to: www.stephenwozniakart.com and www.stephenwozniak.com. Follow Stephen on Instagram at @stephenwozniakart and @thestephenwozniak.

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