Bustling laughter. The crisp sound of a can of Modelo Especial being popped open. And enthusiastic crowd of Latino art patrons gathering to appreciate cultural works. These, of course, are not the main attractions of the current Bobby Ruiz and G. Jim Daichendt’s art exhibit, but they definitely help cultivate an already familial atmosphere. 

This summer, the California Center of the Arts, Escondido (CCAE) experienced record-breaking attendance with “Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters,” an exhibit featuring Southern California street art. 

What sets this show apart is the myriad of street art forms attendees are exposed to: From graffiti to tattoos, from works celebrating lowrider to skateboarding to surfing. 

“This show is really meant to be a celebration of [the diverse subcultures],” Daichendt told CALÓ NEWS. “So many of them overlap with one another in an organic way. We want to invite that diversity and work through it and try to display and exhibit it in a way that is honorable and as true to the streets as it could be in a museum.” 

These artistic subcultures are intertwined within the exhibit through the creations of more than 100 renowned artists who are featured, including OG Able, David Flores, Kenny Scharf, and Mister Cartoon, to name a few. Ruiz, co-curator of Street Legacy, already knew many of them personally from working with them through his family’s streetwear brand, Tribal Gear, which is a major contributor and partner to Street Legacy.

“I’m real proud of Street Legacy,” Ruiz said.

Added Daichendt: “And Tribal has enabled us to put this show together. We wanted to be able to celebrate this diverse grouping of subcultures and how they come together and are represented in the identity of Tribal, similar to the way all those small ‘T’s’ come together to form [Tribal’s] logo.”

Filling the gap of streetwear within the Los Angeles clothing industry is one key mission Ruiz, a self-described Chicano CEO and business owner. Often seen decked out in Chuck Taylor basketball kicks and body tattoos, Ruiz said that he grew up with a fascination for art and street culture and “everything about Southern California,” which led to his application to San Diego State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Chicano studies. Since then, he has curated art shows in Tokyo, Melbourne, New York, and Los Angeles. 

His so-called “curator-in-crime,” Daichendt, like Ruiz, grew up with a passion for street culture painting and drawing. In addition, both say that their love for the arts stemmed from their time skateboarding. Today, Daichendt calls himself an art critic, academic, author of seven books, journalist and professor. But he is most proud of the fact that he has been able to follow his childhood dream of being one thing above all: an artist.

“We’ve been called the ‘Odd Couple,’ ” Ruiz said, ” because you know, here’s me, a tattooed Chicano lowrider and business owner. And then here’s this crazy academic, a super badass-guy. The relationship is unusual, it’s uncommon. But we’ve been able to do some really, really cool stuff.”

Ruiz and Daichendt have worked on two art exhibits together so far, with Street Legacy making the most traction among fans and critics, they say.

OG Slick is a featured Street Legacy artist and his piece called “Three Slick Pigs” serves as both a parody of and social commentary about police brutality, particularly against Latinos and people of color. CALÓ NEWS learned some viewers were offended and that led the CCAE board to meet and vote on whether “Three Slick Pigs” would remain. The verdict was yes. Ruiz and Daichendt later released statements in full support of the artist. 

“Whenever you put nearly 100 artists here and they are talking about things related to street culture,” Daichendt said, “there’s always a chance that something might offend somebody or that there will be imagery that might be shocking.”

The show features authentic Chicano art and shares the ongoing history in the making.

“At this magnitude, especially in a museum of this size, where you’re bringing in skate, surf, Chicano tattoo, graffiti, street art, all things from the streets that bubbled up from the undergrounds,” Ruiz said, “it’ll be looked at as a first by anybody that knows anything about shows or about art and culture.”

“I’m a fan of these artists, I love their work,” Ruiz said. “They’re my friends, their personalities, their art. I’m just a fan who provides a platform for all these artists that I think are great.”

The exhibit is still open from now until Oct. 2, as its attendance record resulted in a few-more-months extension. Purchase tickets here and enjoy the exhibit has Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Serena Sanchez is a freelance writer for CALÓ NEWS. She grew up in San Pedro, Calif., and studied journalism at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Her reporting interests include art, the environment,...