This massive hanging canvas by Takashi Murakami is like nothing else the Japanese artist has exhibited before or that we’ve seen from any contemporary artist. It’s a painting on an epic scale and largely characteristic of Murakami’s 2D style except for elements of graffiti art and tags visually woven into the composition. The painting is two-sided. In that sense, it’s like two paintings on a single canvas, each side different in tone from the opposite side. The artwork is hanging in a way that forms a semi-circle and a kind of alcove for the viewer. As Murakami’s artwork goes, this is distinct vision, a nightmare, strangely compelling and stunning, where the artist’s usual visual grammar and symbolism has been put through a filter, as it rendered in a fever dream or a drug-induced state. In any case, it’s a masterpiece. It’s currently on view at the blockbuster Beyond the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles.
The story may be apocryphal, but if true — and we believe it is — it’s a telling anecdote about the graffiti artist Claw, a.k.a., Claw Money., a.k.a., Claudia Gold. Back in the day, in the 1990s, a friend of ours and Claw dated briefly. As he recalled, one time they were together, she suddenly left in the wee hours of morning to “fix” or repair one of her graffiti a tags in New York’s East Village. Claw had got word that somebody had written graffiti over her tag and went out as soon as she could to surreptiously restore her tag to its former glory. That’s commitment. Coincidentally many years later, we worked briefly with an advertising agency in New York whose offices were next to the office of Claw’s growing fashion business. We hadn’t seen much of Claw in recent years in terms of graffiti art. So it was a welcome surprise to see her signature claw graffiti tag at the Beyond the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Given her influence and the iconic style of her distinct graffiti tag, it shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
The French street artist known as Invader (a.k.a., “Space Invader”) occupies a distinct place in the street art world. He has worked in a medium that few others have. His artwork is in the form pre-arranged mosaic-tile pieces affixed to walls all over the world. The mosaic tiles give his images a pixelated look consistent with the aesthetic of old-school video game interfaces like 1980s arcade game Space Invader, to which his name alludes. The images in his mosaics have mostly been of the iconic alien invaders from that classic game. For the blockbuster Beyond the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles, Invader created the site specific work pictured here that declares “Invader was here.” The official title of this artwork is “LA 172,” which denotes that this is the 172nd such mosaic artwork he has put up in Los Angeles throughout his career.
One of Los Angeles’s great landmarks is the Griffith Observatory, an architectural gem that mixes art-deco and Mayan aesthetics. It’s perched on a ridge in Hollywood Hills above Los Felix and provides a stunning, wide view the L.A. basin. It naturally is a major tourist draw, with thousands upon thousands of people winding their way up the hills and canyons each day to visit this icon of La La Land. It’s a functioning observatory and as such there are working scientists, astronomers, educators, and space enthusiasts, et. al. — nerds! — congregated and fussing about amid the tourist hordes snapping selfies along the viewing terraces.
Los Angeles-based British painter David Hockney’s “82 Portraits and 1 Still Life” includes one of that very L.A. artist John Baldessari. These portraits are a departure for Hockney’s famed paintings of L.A.’s distinct urban landscape and lifestyle. The painting Baldessari and the other 82 paintings are currently on view at LACMA, Los Angeles.
We’ve been following artist Maya Hayuk’s work throughout her career and seen many of her colorful, cross-hatched abstract murals in New York, Los Angeles and throughout Europe, on the streets, in museums, and in galleries. Her work is evocative. The painting pictured here is on view at the Beyond the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles, and it’s our new all-time favorite. This painting is different from most of Hayuk’s recent solo work insofar as it emerges from abstraction and spells out a word, an often-used four-letter expletive. The lettering harkens back to the artist’s early-career working with a group of artists in the 1990s known as the Barnstormers. Their project involved painting massive graffiti-inspired artworks on the sides of old barns and farm buildings in rural parts of America. The artwork transcended mere graffiti writing with the obvious painting skills and an aesthetic vision of its creators. We’d love to see more like this painting.
The artist ALEC has made a career of street art and massive murals with images of pop-culture icons and celebrities from New York City to far-flung corners like Bali, Indonesia. It’s fitting — and perhaps inevitable — that in the heart of Hollywood he would paint a mural of legendary film actress Marilyn Monroe, a cinematic icons who best represents the spectrum of Hollywood fame, glitz and glamour, and ultimately tragedy.
Look up in the sky! It’s … it’s a … it’s a hashtag! Yes, right there, in the air, under the scorching mid-day sun, in our view, it’s a gosh-darn hashtag — skywriting of #AMERICA — letters fading and floating apart, ephemeral, as we walk the back streets of Venice in Los Angeles on July Fourth, America’s Independence Day holiday.