You’ll find everything from pop icons to political exhibits—or raw patriotism—in the thousands of murals decorating our Los Angeles streets; their temporary nature adds palpable color and movement to the city. And while these ten iconic murals are some of the most important, this list only scratches the surface of LA’s street art offerings. That means that if this list doesn’t satisfy your street art hunger, there’s more waiting for you all around the city. LA Art Tours even offers regular tours of graffiti and murals in Downtown LA. In addition, some of these works are unfortunately becoming endangered by development or neglect, so if you’re interested in helping to preserve Los Angeles history, both Robert Dunitz’s Street Gallery or the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles have preservation programs. See some street art, save some street art—it’s a win-win. Now, let’s see some murals!
Steve McQueen Monument
Address: Union St. near 12th St., Los Angeles, CA 90015
Steve McQueen Monument is classic pop art created by Kent Twitchell, one of LA’s best-known muralists. Painted on the front of a private residence just west of Downtown, the mural has led a precarious existence. Originally painted in 1971, the mural was accidentally painted over by contractors in 1987 and then restored by the artist in 1988. Many of Twitchell’s murals, including his 6-story tribute to artist Ed Ruscha in Downtown LA, and 111th Street Jesus in South Central have suffered a similar fate. Hurry and drive by to see it, before someone changes their mind about Steve’s historical value.
Address: 1700 Lida St, Pasadena, CA 91103
In 1989, not long before his death, famed New York artist Keith Haring was invited to paint this mural at the Pasadena Art Center. Conceived as a “permanent memorial to members of the art community who have died of AIDS and as a symbol of hope and compassion,” the work is colorful and inspirational. Sadly Haring passed away from AIDS himself in 1990, just two months after the mural was completed.
Elliott Smith Figure 8 Mural
Address: 4334 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Originally an advertisement for Solutions Audio Video Repair in Silverlake, this mural was made famous by Autumn de Wilde’s cover photo for Elliott Smith’s 2000 Figure 8 album. Since Smith’s death, the mural has become a kind of shrine, with fans writing messages, leaving gifts and re-enacting the original photo. Last year the mural was repainted in ‘nude’ as a publicity stunt but has since been restored to its original colors. If you’re a true Elliot Smith fan, head to The Roost in Atwater Village afterwards, a dive bar that was reportedly Smith’s favorite hang out.
Address: 4213 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008
Originally painted in 2011, The Elixir was restored by the artist in 2015 after it was defaced. Artist Patrick Henry Johnson funded the mural with his own money, inspired after an emotional breakup. The text pleads, “Have we forgotten that we are spiritual beings having a human experience? In a universe created in harmony, conflict is a creation of your own mind. You have all that you need within. What are you waiting for? FREE… YOUR… MIND!”
Address: 1515 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
An iconic bar that has existed in Venice for over 60 years (originally a dive bar that has since been remodeled), Brandelli’s Brig features a bizarre mural of the original owners, boxer ‘Babe’ Brandelli and his wife Betty, standing outside the bar. And the exterior of the bar as depicted in the mural also features the same mural of the owner and his wife standing outside the bar… you get the picture. The mural was painted by Santa Monica artist Art Mortimer, who is also responsible for several iconic murals in LA including Temple City on Parade and the Cougar Park Mural. Fun fact: before becoming a commercial artist, Mortimer collaborated with Terry Gilliam and produced a number of animated films.
Prado Dam Bicentennial Mural
Address: Pomona Rincon Road, Corona, CA 92880
Painted by high school kids (when toxic lead paint was still used—yikes) for the Bicentennial in 1976, the Prado Dam Mural has recently been the subject of controversy. When the Army Corps of Engineers proposed removing the mural, it was met with community backlash, resulting in a review process that is currently ongoing. While the wheels of bureaucracy slowly turn, you’ve still got a chance to catch a glimpse this historical slice of American patriotism. The mural is visible from the 71 Freeway, or you can take a short hike to reach the dam.
Colonel Bernie Sanders at Johnie’s Coffee Shop
Address: 6099 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Martin via You Are Here
Address: 1727 E 107th St, Los Angeles, CA 90002
Cecil Fergerson worked his way up from a janitor at LACMA to influential curator and founder of the Black Arts Council. The council went on to push for more African American curatorial involvement at LACMA and elsewhere, thanks to Fergerson’s involvement. He also curated some influential shows that featured Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge, and Betye Saar and many others. This mural was painted by Richard Wyatt at the Watts Towers Arts Center in tribute to Fergerson, as he worked as the Center’s curator in the mid-80s.
Address: Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90026
Date: 1991, 1996
If you drive along Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park, you’ll notice two murals by local artist Ruben Soto. “Eyes” covers the walls of the Sunset Boulevard underpass and features portraits of Kent Twitchell, the Pastor of the Angelus Temple, and a self-portrait of Soto. Further along at the Hollywood Freeway underpass is an odd assortment of local icons dubbed “12 Disciples”. This mural includes portraits of Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, Hugh Heffner and Beverly Hills hair stylist Guiseppi Franco—not exactly the most devout crew in town, but hey, he who casts the first stone…
Address: 125 Paseo De La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros painted this notorious mural in 1932 while teaching at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles. It shows an indigenous Mexican man crucified on a double cross beneath an American Eagle. It was so controversial at the time that it was whitewashed almost immediately after it was painted and Siqeiros was deported. In 2012, 80 years after it was first unveiled, the mural was restored by the Getty Institute. See it soon, because you never know if Trump will get elected and decide to whitewash it again.