Monthly Archives: October 2017

BRAZEN: CELEBRITY STREET ARTIST DEFIES NATURE AND PCH TRAFFIC TO PUT UP ARTWORK

We spent last weekend on a surf trip in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties north of Los Angeles. On the way back to LA, as we drove sun-kissed and exhausted along Pacific Coast Highway (a.k.a., PCH) and we neared scenic Santa Monica, we spotted the mysterious, blank gaze of Andre the Giant on a busted-up retaining wall built into the side of the cliffs.

Artist Shepard Fairey and/or his minions/interns/assistants had struck this beautiful stretch of beachside paradise with his classic and iconic street artwork, a poster often called “Obey” or “Obey the Giant,” but originally called “Giant Has a Posse.”

This is the meme-marketing experiment-as-design-turned-art that launched the career of Shepard Fairey back in the early 1990s. For a few years, the extreme close-up face of late professional wrestler Andre the Giant, as he was known, was everywhere in the form of this artwork put up on walls as wheat-pasted posters and stickers. That visage of Andre has found it’s way woven into many other pieces of artwork by Fairey since then.

But since the mid-2000s, it seem Andre’s face has been seen less and less, as the subject matter and focus of Fairey’s work has gradually shifted toward more politically-tinged realistic representations of people in his own distinct and adorned graphical style.

So this poster on PCH was a bit of a surprise for its being the original, classic “Obey” design and its scale, as well as its unusual location. Santa Monica doesn’t have a lot of illicit street art, and along this part of PCH there are few potential blank canvases for such artwork to be put.

The retaining wall is perfect, but it’s hard to reach given its situation on the side of a cliff on a side of PCH that has no easy pedestrian access. Plus there’s the neverending stream of speeding highway traffic to contend with. There was a chainlink fence blocking access to the spot too, but the fence has been mangled down freeing up a path. Putting up such a large piece of artwork here isn’t easy.

The context of Fairey’s artwork is unusual too. It’s not the usual cityscape setting. Aside from the dilapidated wall, the artwork is on the outward appearance, set in an un-urbanized environment — tucked into a beautiful coastal bluff flanked by palm trees, plants, dried brush and multi-million-dollar beachfront mansions. On viewing, there’s a brief moment of cognitive dissonance.

Soooooooo … full marks to Mr. Fairey!

KNOWLEDGE: STREET ART EXPLAINS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FINANCE AND LOVE

Art can do many things. It can provoke, teach, offend, inform, comfort, inspire, scare, stimulate and bond us.

Street art, can possibly do even more things. Its public nature — in “the streets” —  gives it more reach and exposure to a much larger, broader audience than most of the art confined to the indoors of a museum or gallery. That said, most of the audience exposed to street art do not care for street art.

That public may not “get it” nor like it nor think of it as “art,” but as they drive by or walk by street art, they cannot unsee it (at least not without some kind of head-trauma induced amnesia or decades of expensive professional psychological counseling).

In this way, street art is like a billboard, or what people in the ad agency business called “OOH” for “out of home” advertising.

So any explicit message contained in the street artwork has as much power or influence as a billboard, which itself may be inconsequential or great depending on the content, images and message. In any case, while that influence can be hard to precisely measure, nobody is in doubt, however, about its visibility and potential.

Occasionally street art, or art in general, imparts some gem of wisdom and understanding in the viewer. Often, depending on the media, it’s nuanced, subject to interpretation and open to speculation. But sometimes it’s clearly stated, expressed using the power and clarity of the written word, relying more on text than image.

No money, No honey” (our comma) is the message in the stencil street art pictured here on a stretch of pavement in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The stenciled art provides a pithy, hyper-concise breakdown of the relationship between purchase power and sex (preferably of the hot kind).

The statement is a generally understood observation, and an unethical and shameful popular notion, that has existed since the beginning of time. To put it another way, it’s saying there’s a relationship between money and love, or the facsimile of love.

Is there a real-world example that might illustrate this relationship? Why, yes, there is, savvy reader! Yes, there is!

Take the case of Melania and Donald Trump. Melania here is the “honey” in the equation. The Donald has the “money.” If Donald does not have the money, it’s quite likely he wouldn’t have the “honey” (that’s Melania — c’mon folks follow along!). Because, really … Melania would give up the honey for this without the money?

Under any circumstances, the image of Melania giving up the honey for Donald Money is something we can’t unsee. It’s like street art. Or a billboard. Or street art ON a billboard. A really frightening billboard.