American born graffiti artist, illustrator, and self-declared enfant terrible David Choe (b.1976) has become famous for his “dirty style” aestheticism. Born to Korean parents in Los Angeles, Choe found himself at the centre of social and racial tensions during the 1990s as a teenager in the city; the latter’s violence, degradation and exaltation being heavily reflected in his artistic expression early on.
Choe: “I am from the school of dirty styles, but it’s more than just style and surface, it’s every dirty thing that’s inside you. (...) My dad would bring home used Xeroxes from work so I could Crayola all over the backs, then I moved on to painting on benches and other shit on the street because I couldn’t afford canvases... So even before you start, there’ some history, there’s some chills, spills, and marks, then you keep creating more history on top of that, spilling, spraying, dripping, creaming, collaging, making a mess. All this ugly dirty shit, (with hopefully the) end product being something tolerable and beautiful (...) born from that filth.”
Choe’s work appears in a wide variety of urban culture and entertainment contexts. His graffiti work is closely linked to a cartoon rendering of a buck-toothed whale that Choe has been spray-painting on streets since more than two decades; in 2004, Choe illustrated the cover art for Jay-Z and Linkin Park's multi-platinum album Collision Course, created artwork to decorate the sets of Juno and The Glass House; and in 2005, internet entrepreneur Sean Parker commissioned Choe to paint murals inside Facebook's first Silicon Valley office. A portrait of then-Senator Barack Obama painted in 2008 was later displayed in the White House, Washington DC.