MEAR ONE (Kalen Ockerman, b. 1971, Santa Cruz, CA) is a contemporary American artist based in Los Angeles.
MEAR ONE began his career in 1986 as a graffiti artist living in Los Angeles. MEAR ONE has been labeled as "The Michelangelo of Graffiti" and "The Salvador Dali of Hip-Hop." He is considered by many to be Los Angeles' most prolific graffiti artist because of the way he revolutionized graffiti with his fine-art realism, breaking out of traditional 2D letter forms, and using perspective to develop complex characters with dynamic backgrounds in epic scale. By the early 1990's, he had established a large fan base through his notorious work on the streets, underground hip-hop album covers featuring his iconic imagery, and his involvement in pioneering early street wear clothing and graffiti culture. In 1993, MEAR was the first graffiti artists from Los Angeles to travel to Tokyo and paint graffiti in front of a live public audience. In the mid 90's, hip hop imagery and cultural icons in his work were replaced with a deeper, more introspective conversation based around a politically disillusioned reality that he felt hip-hop had ceased to address. At this point he began his transition from street graffiti to canvas paintings, and began his first body of acrylic and airbrushed paintings.
In 1996 MEAR ONE began performing at live events, and coined the term "Live Art" to describe the spontaneous, performative, and interactive act of painting in front of a live audience, which he considered akin to freestyle poetry and music. In 1998, MEAR was given the back editorial page of Urb Magazine, "The Final Exam," which served as his vehicle for social commentary for a span of 33 issues over 3 years. In 1999, MEAR ONE was acknowledged for his contribution to graffiti art by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, during their exhibition, Roots, Rhyme, + Rage: The Hip-Hop Story, commemorating 20 years of hip-hop history. In 2000, MEAR ONE was selected among the world's most accomplished graffiti artists for Guernseys Graffiti Art: The Auction, in conjunction with the Bronx Museum's first major exhibition on graffiti art in the United States. In 2002, MEAR had his ground breaking solo exhibition at the politically oriented 33 1/3 Gallery in Los Angeles, the site where Bansky would make his Los Angeles debut later that year. In 2004, MEAR ONE, Robbie Conal, and Shepard Fairey organized a cross-country art tour, Be the Revolution, to raise awareness of the evils of the Bush-Cheney campaign. In 2010, MEAR joined with Kofie, Mac and Retna to form Vox Humana, a Live Art painting installation, which performed at The Los Angeles Art Show, and Volta 6 Art Fair in Basel, Switzerland. In 2010, MEAR painted Live Art at the Coachella Valley Music Festival in front of 90,000 people and was voted one of the "Most Interesting People To See at Coachella" by LA Weekly. In 2011, MEAR ONE was selected to be showcased in two critically acclaimed museum exhibitions of street art and graffiti, Art in the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Street Cred at the Padadena Museum of California Art.
MEAR ONE's work is inspired by ancient technology, science, philosophy, mythology and mysticism, along with political and cultural revolution, and notions of the apocalypse. MEAR creates his own mythology from pop culture icons and important historic persons that have shaped our structured reality. He uses art as a tool to express his feelings of frustration with what he feels is a broken system. MEAR uses visual language to provide a critical viewpoint that exposes the history of corruption in America and the world at large. The diversity in his work often depicts an experience of transcendence in sharp contrast with depictions of the horrors of humanity, war, and oppression. His current body of work can be described as a series of allegorical oil paintings that draw upon history, mythology, political theory, conspiracy theory, modern myths, and current events. Stylistically he has been described as "urban psychedelic surreal," and is perhaps best known for his climactic battle scenes taking place under broad expansive cityscapes with billowing cumulous clouds.