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Legendary L.A. Graffiti Icon TEMPT ONE Dies At 54

TEMPT ONE was an iconic graffiti artist whose hand styles first harmonized the precision of Chinese calligraphic lines with the boldness of classic serif Los Angeles "cholo" letters. L.A. TACO has confirmed that he has passed away at the age of 54 after fighting ALS for 20 years.

11:45 AM PDT on September 1, 2023

    Photo via @cab1k2s/Instagram.

    In 2011, Tony “TEMPT ONE” Quan became the first graffiti writer in the world to get up—to draw on walls, in graffiti-speak—using just the movement of his eyes to create his art piece. This historic bomb was featured at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. That was 9 years after the artist was first diagnosed with ALS.

    It became an iconic piece, made possible thanks to the EyeWriter, an open-source pair of digital, eye-tracking glasses that allowed him to draw, type, and speak using just the movements of his eyes. That inspiring project was documented in Quan’s self-titled documentary, Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story.

    L.A. TACO has confirmed that Quan has passed away this morning.

    TEMPT was an iconic graffiti artist whose hand styles first harmonized the precision of Chinese calligraphic lines with the boldness of classic serif Los Angeles "cholo" letters.

    His feat of drawing again, despite the disease wreaking havoc on his physical form, again was a revolutionary moment in art, marking Quan as a marvel of human perseverance and ability.

    "Know the history, respect the culture, and forge your own path," was his philosophy for style, according to an interview for L.A. TACO in 2015.

    TEMPT ONE's 3D graffiti sculpture in 2011 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, a collaboration with ANGST, EYEONE, DEFER, PRIME, and SLICK. Photo by Rojelio Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    The independent street artist grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and was part of L.A.'s celebrated STN, K2S, 213K, and FB tagging crews, and some of the first to start drawing on freeway overpasses in Los Angeles. He also worked for BigTime Graffiti magazine and was the subject of his documentary titled Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story, released in 2013. In his formative teen years, Quan was a drummer in punk bands around L.A.'s DIY punk scene, the most prominent bands being The Looters, Blank Generation, and Pink Freud. Later on, Quan went on to create the typography for Ollin's first album, "Sons of the Shaking Earth."

    Tony Quan playing drums for The Looters as seen on the zine, "Pure Filth Magazine. Image courtesy of Jimmy Alvarado.

    Countless tributes have been paid over the years by crew members and graffiti legends on the city's walls, many of whom are likely doing the same on the streets of Los Angeles right now in the wake of his passing.

    Quan was the embodiment of the term “going down swinging," fighting ALS until the end. In 2015, he credited a plant-based diet in an interview with MUNCHIES for helping him live this long after being diagnosed.

    Uniting for TEMPT ONE, at the fundraiser for his documentary: BIG SLEEPS, DEF, SLICK, ANGST, Shepard Fairey, CHAZ, and NUKE. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    "Staying focused and staying positive in the struggle" was a common response from Quan when you asked how he was doing, never victimizing himself.

    Photo courtesy of TEMPT.

    "With ALS, it's about small victories over a long period of time and in recent years," he said. "Sometimes, it's a 'two steps forward, three steps back' type of thing, so it's important to not get easily discouraged."

    Photo courtesy of TEMPT.
    Photo courtesy of TEMPT.

    Know the history, respect the culture, and forge your own path.

    In 2015, Quan disclosed the favorite tacos he grew up with in Los Angeles in an interview with L.A. TACO.

    "I used to love the tacos dorados from Carnitas Michoacan No. 3 in East L.A.," he said. "The ones from Lucy's on Pico and La Brea, Ciro's in East L.A., and Al & Bea's. You have to remember that this was back before the foodie explosion in L.A., so if my tastes seem a little ordinary compared to the 'rabbit meat tacos with corn tortillas dipped in squid ink' scene, well, what can I say? I'm old school with it, not trying to reinvent the wheel. Something about those greasy deep fried tacos always did it for me—especially after a long day of painting. LOL." 

    Rest in power, TEMPT ONE. You'll continue to live as an inspiration and pioneer to so many of us in your hometown.

    Photo courtesy of TEMPT.
    Photo courtesy of TEMPT.
    Photo courtesy of TEMPT.

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