Graffiti Painted Cannon
Mixed media, wood and hard plastic with metal chain on one side
Dimensions: 29" x 11" x 10"
Provenance: Kirk Gallery New York City
Extreme line detail with various base colors, black green yellow gold and red with silver metallic and black paint. Tagged Throughout by LAII New York City graffiti artist LA II (a.k.a. Angel Ortiz)
Angel Ortiz (born 1967), known publicly as LA II or LA2 (meaning "Little Angel"), is an American graffiti artist and visual artist of Puerto Rican descent from the Lower East Side who is known for his collaborations with Keith Haring. Ortiz's contributions to Haring's work, including his trademark graffiti infill squiggles, have notably been obscured by the art establishment, which has prompted Ortiz's supporters, including artist, photographer, and videographer Clayton Patterson, to publicly uplift Ortiz's work and ask for credit to be given. Ortiz has been criminalized, arrested, and incarcerated several times for various offenses throughout his life. Ortiz is represented by Lawrence Fine Art, which has galleries in Los Angeles and East Hampton.
Ortiz has created graffiti art since at the age of ten. Starting in the mid-1970s, he tagged in New York's Lower East Side under the moniker LA2. At the age of thirteen, his subway tags caught the attention of Keith Haring in 1980. Haring was reportedly inspired by Ortiz's artistry and the two began collaborating. At the age of sixteen, Ortiz was in contact with Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. In 1982, Ortiz and Haring collaborated for an exhibition at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York. His work is associated with the Outsider street art movement and the Pop Art movement.
In a 1992 biography on Haring's life, Haring stated "We just immediately hit it off. It’s as if we’d known each other all our lives. He’s like my little brother." Kenny Scharf, artist and friend of Haring's, recalled "Keith treated him as a true collaborator; he didn’t treat him like some little kid, which he actually was, really. He respected him and gave him half of whatever they collaborated on.” Ortiz confirmed that he was paid for his work during Haring's lifetime. However, Ortiz stopped receiving payment from Haring's estate following his death. According to scholar Ricardo Montez, the Haring Foundation has "since made strides to rectify LA2’s erasure." LA II is for Haring what Jean-Michel Basquiat was for Andy Warhol. Today LA II is considered an iconic graffiti artist, being unearthed from the massive power of Keith Haring’s body of work. LA II’s role role in Haring’s artistic development is clearly delineated by the unique and original look of their co-produced works. Fortunately, LA II is still alive, and his career is in its prime. LA II has a very collaborative nature. He seeks out to work with other artists giving characterization of his unique calligraphic patterns and lines to each piece. He has worked with dozens of artists in the art market today. Some of these names include Richard Hamilton, a number of street artists from the LES, Delta 2, Ero, and Cindy Shaoul. LA II's Urban Art style and graffiti heavily influenced Keith Haring’s work. Although his collaborator Haring began to be shown in galleries, Ortiz did not receive comparable success. By the early 1990s, Ortiz's contributions were largely forgotten and ignored. He became addicted to heroin and served eight months in prison for drug possession. Between 1987 and 2002 Ortiz was arrested at least nine times. In 2003, he was arrested for marijuana possession.
In 2008, Ortiz and Clayton Patterson added black lines to a Haring mural that was re-created at the intersection of Houston and Bowery streets in order to draw attention to the erasure that Ortiz has faced from Haring's artistic career. Ortiz stated, "when I was painting that mural, I didn’t feel like it was me, I felt like it was Keith’s spirit in me [...] I don’t want to be rich and famous. What keeps me going is my art. I wanted to show the foundation: This is LA II, this is how it all started.” In an interview, Ortiz related to The New York Sun that "the executive director of the Haring Foundation, Julia Gruen, [has] repeatedly asked him to help authenticate Haring works in preparation for sale at auction houses such as Sotheby's while refusing his request for recognition by the foundation."
In 2011, Ortiz was arrested three times in short succession for tagging his famed LA II and LA ROC monikers throughout the Lower East Side. Ortiz stated his graffiti spree came as a result of his wife's death, who had died earlier that year in January after a liver transplant: “I used the street as a canvas to express myself. It’s an emotional thing that I’m still going through.” Ortiz was arrested for a third time right before the opening of his show at Dorian Grey Gallery and the show suffered as a result. At the time of his arrest, Ortiz stated "I shouldn't have done it. I knew sooner or later I was going to get arrested." Friend Ramona Lugo stated, "You know how many times I had arguments with him because he was going to do graffiti? He knew not to do that, [but] he's still got that mentality. That is the mentality of the graffiti artist." Ortiz was sentenced to prison at Rikers Island for 45 days for the tagging. Hearing of the sentence, Lugo added "I'm heartbroken for him because I know he's hurting. He's going through hell in there. He doesn't belong in there. He's a good person." After his release, Ortiz stated "I went there for graffiti and got transformed into a gladiator. They got all the gangs in there: the Bloods, the Latin Kings." Ortiz stated that the jail time gave him an opportunity to reflect and gave him new inspiration. In 2020, Clayton Patterson described Ortiz as follows: LA2’s struggle and history make him important to me. He was a young Puerto Rican kid who came to me for help. He had joined the Keith Haring circus at 15. Keith had the barking dog and the radiant baby. But it’s graphics, not fine art. LA2 created the fill-ins. Those little symbols in Keith’s work are LA2’s signatures. Keith and LA2 were a collaboration, and people don’t talk about their work that way. LA2 was not just the help. The art establishment has shafted him. Ortiz’s mix of contemporary symbols with Asian calligraphy has been shown in galleries and museums across the United States.Among some selected exhibitions on which LA II has participated are: Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York City, with Keith Haring in 1982, in 1983 alongside with Keith Haring at the Fun Gallery, New York City, at the Galerie Watari, Tokyo, Japan, at the Robert Fraser Gallery, London, United Kingdom, at the Special Projects Paint Fiorucci, Milan, Italy, in 1990 Future Primeval Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows and Corona Park, New York with Keith Haring, Follin Gallery, New York City in 2001, Clayton Patterson Outlaw Museum, New York City in 2002, LA II & Keith Haring, Due amici a New York in 2003, Scope Art Fair, Los Angeles, California in 2004, and Galleria Leonardo Galerie, Bolzano, Italy in 2005. After his work with Haring ended, LA II continued to make his own artwork fighting to make his past and current work more well-known. In 2008 he was famously caught tagging his name in a restored Haring outdoor mural without permission and in 2011 he went to jail for one month due to graffiti around Manhattan. LA II lives in New York, New York and works to continue creating graffiti art.