Rob Larsen has watched the graffiti scene ebb and flow through Boston‘s neighborhoods. Let him show you around.
Rob ‘REACT’ Larsen is a graffiti expert. He’s been doing graffiti himself since the ’80s with his works regularly featured alongside some of the biggest names in the genre. He’s also taught it, written about it, and photographed it—all over the world.
Larsen also takes people on public and private graffiti walking tours in and around Boston. “Public tours started last year, around this time. I had been developing some private tours, different itineraries, and I realized I could probably handle a few people so I decided to just list it on Eventbrite and see how it went,” he says. “I’ve been doing it every couple of weeks every since.” The tours kick off nearly every week and Larsen keeps the routes fresh and ever-changing, like the nature of the work itself. “I switch it up now that I have a couple of different itineraries,” he says. “I try and do the main street art and graffiti tour every couple of weeks.”
The street art and graffiti tour is a three-mile walk that takes three hours and focuses on street art for the first half and graffiti in the second half. The groups range in size from 12-16 people. Larsen also offers something more along the lines of a discovery tour. “I do a tour that replicates what I do when I go out and take photographs, just looking at what is up,” he says. “A straight graffiti tour, we walk through JP (Jamaica Plain), I just focus on whatever’s out there. Half of that includes a bunch of illegal stuff that can change from week to week, which is actually pretty interesting for me and people get to see me be surprised. The second half is legal walls, commissioned pieces with the owner’s permission.” This tour is usually two hours.
Larsen puts his itineraries together about a month before the actual tour dates and is constantly thinking of new ideas and areas to share with people. He’s working on a short run for Somerville due to debut at the end of August. “It’s around Union Square because there’s some interesting stuff around there.” He also hopes to launch a public art tour this fall, that would focus on public art around the Boston Common, Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
This past winter, Larsen completed his book, You Can’t Win, which documents his eye for graffiti, tags, and murals with an international collection of his own photographic images. Larsen’s commentary on each of the images is an ode to the form he so loves. And the title? “It’s an open-ended phrase, it’s a little bit about the fact that this is all ephemeral,” he says. “It’s also just a nihilistic graffiti sort of attitude—you’re up against society, and you can’t win but you might as well try because what else are you going to do.”
Rob Larsen–graffiti/street art tour guide, illustrator
Images courtesy of Rob Larsen