Famous Street Artist Meets Pilgrim School Students

Robbie Conal
In March, Pilgrim School’s 7th and 8th graders spent never-to-be-forgotten class time with renowned artist Robbie Conal.  Conal kicked off the final trimester of Pilgrim’s year-long Visiting Writers and Artists program with “Los Angeles Street Artists.”

Robbie is known for his acerbic political posters, which his “volunteer guerilla postering army” distributes on LA’s streets overnight.  For years Angelenos have seen Conal’s political graphics on electrical boxes at major intersections, each underscored with a provocative caption.  The 70 year old artist, who moved to LA in 1984, enjoys a national reputation having been featured at LACMA, MOCA, and the Metropolitan Art Museum as well as in numerous television shows, newspapers and magazines articles.  The Washington Post even declared Conal, a Culver City resident, as “America’s foremost street artist.”

Robbie-Donal2According to Pilgrim Secondary School Art Teacher Janne Larsen, that beyond Conal’s political wit, the Pilgrim teens focused mainly on how he is a “really great artist” technically.  Students had no idea Conal’s street posters originally began as oil paintings.  Trained at San Francisco State and Stanford University, Conal begins his process with a large-scale painting from which a high quality offset lithograph is based, resulting in his final bold graphic posters.

Conal arrived early at Pilgrim and observed a class critiquing their own sculpture.  “I would love to have their teacher [who is also a practicing artist],” he told the Buzz.  He was impressed that Pilgrim shows respect to artists.  “It is a credit to Pilgrim School that they pay you to come, acknowledging that this is our living.”

Conal has recently been focusing on the legendary Nelson Mandela to raise money for a non-profit organization in South Africa.  “Since 1986 the majority of my public art has been satirical.  I’m spending a lot of time with people I don’t like [his political, capitalist, and televangelist subjects], and the karma builds up. Applying that same technique to celebrating positive role models is liberating. That is why I started the ‘Dreaming’ series [Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mandela],” Conal explained to the students.

Other visual artists in the Pilgrim Visiting Artist series have included professional puppeteer Bruce Chesse, public sculptor Patrick Jewett, photographer Sidonie Loiseleux, and mixed media artist Corrie Gregory.   Finishing out the school trimester will be Dale Davis, co-founder of the Brockman Gallery in Leimert Park, and Rebecca Niederlander, co-founder of social practice “BROODWORK:  Creative Practice and Family Life”.

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About Renee Montgomery

Renee Montgomery began researching historic men's waistcoats at LACMA in 1979 as an intern, and is still at the museum as an Assistant Director in administration. She's written for various local media and museum publications, focusing on 'small town pockets' in urban L.A. She resides in Lafayette Square and has one daughter, a professional ballet dancer. Having never lost her zeal for her 'aggie' San Gabriel Valley/Riverside upbringing, Renee currently sells citrus and homegrown produce to support dog rescue efforts.

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