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June 05, 2008|PAUL YOUNG

I first met Jon Reiss in 1985, when he was documenting an L.A. performance by the Survival Research Laboratories, a group renowned for dangerous, kinetic sculptures. I had a video camera, so I offered to shoot footage free. That pleased Reiss, so he placed me at the lot's far end, where SRL sent its unmanned machinery into an orgy of explosions. (The camera survived, but my hearing still suffers.)

So I am happy to see Reiss is still courting danger in his latest doc, "Bomb It," opening Friday. Three years in the making, the 93-minute film explores the motivations of graffiti writers worldwide. "I've always been interested in outsider art," he says. "Graffiti is the ultimate outsider art."

In lesser hands, the romanticizing of such outlaw artists would be obsequious at best, but Reiss weaves in complex arguments about the meaning of public space and the consequences of blight. It places the phenomenon in a broader context, where ads and consumerism are as seminal as outright rebellion.

But for me, I just love that Reiss got chased by police, lost equipment, ruined cars and waded through sewers for his shots. "I guess I'm attracted to dangerous material," he says.

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-- theguide@latimes.com

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