Mario Ybarra Jr.‘s sculpture, installations, and community-based projects examine the perspective and cultural touchstones of Mexican Americans living in Southern California. In his work, Ybarra strives to cultivate an “open dialogue with the public,” whether as aware participants or unassuming onlookers. A major part of his practice—including his FWM residency—has involved examining hidden histories of U.S. street culture through large-scale, mixed-media installations.
His resulting FWM exhibition—Books Of Drawings, Beyond Our Dreams, Blame Our Dads, Brains On Drugs, Better Off Dead—told a visual narrative of Ybarra’s former graffiti street crew. Established in 1990, this crew provided some of his earliest connections to art. Drawing was a key way to develop graffiti styles, which members frequently shared and exchanged within black sketchbooks. Ybarra’s sketchbooks were part of the final installation and the drawings they contained provided much of the source imagery for his collaborative projects with FWM’s studio staff. Similar to the exhibition’s title, the crew’s name, B.O.D.—his first graffiti tag—stands for many things and can take on many forms, similar to the diverse components of the FWM installation: screen-printed wallpaper, embroidered jackets, hand-painted shoes, and digitally printed scarves. These individual works were housed within fragmented architectural structures that, when combined, formed a large shipping container, a common industrial sight at the Los Angeles Port near Wilmington, California, where Ybarra was born and raised. At FWM, these structures simultaneously served as an urban clubhouse, a museum, and pop-up shop.